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Singapore court overturns order to disclose sources (Play the Game)

James M. Dorsey at Play the Game 2013.

Photo: Thomas Søndergaard / Play the Game

In September last year, a Singaporean court ordered journalist and blogger James M. Dorsey to reveal his sources for a report he did on an audit of the connection between Mohammed bin Hammam and World Sports Group (WSG). Dorsey appealed the order to the Singaporean Court of Appeal, who had it overturned.

The Singapore Court of Appeal has issued a judgment outlining the grounds of the decision to overturn the disclosure of sources order issued on the Singapore-based journalist and blogger James M. Dorsey by a Singapore court.

WSG initiated proceedings after Dorsey disclosed details of a PricewaterhouseCoopers report revealing payments to bin Hammam, quoted sources close to the AFC questioning the WSG contract and revealed that Malaysian police had opened an investigation into the theft of documents related to one of the payments. WSG asked the Singapore High Court to order Dorsey to reveal his sources. In the court hearing, which took place on 28 September 2012, the court ruled in favour of WSG, and Dorsey was ordered to reveal his sources for the report. The revelation of the sources would allow WSG to start legal action on charges of breach of confidentiality and defamation against Dorsey and his sources.

The court ordered Dorsey to take part in pre-action interrogatories sought by WSG, but according to the Court of Appeal judgment released last week, this claim could not be justified.

"Certainly, corrupt practices in international football organisations ought not to be permitted to be spuriously choked by arid claims of confidentiality," the judgment says.

"It would be grotesque for a party implicated in corrupt activities to assert that the courts ought to defer to contractual arrangements importing confidence if those very arrangements are infected by sordid criminality. To adapt a well-known dictum, sunlight is the best disinfectant for corruption."

The 51-page judgment further notes that the decision to grant these pre-action interrogatories was wrongful, given that the information about the report in question had been reported on by other media without WSG attempting litigation.

The International Federation for Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the ruling as a step forward for media freedom in Singapore:

"We welcome this ground breaking and hugely positive ruling," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

"It is a major victory in the battle against those who wish to suppress and undermine press freedom and freedom of expression in Singapore," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha in a statement on the IFJ website.

Read the Singapore Court of Appeal Grounds of Decision

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