Media lawyer: Hong Huifang may be in more trouble than Pan Ling Ling if Julie Tan sues
Hong Huifang could be in more trouble than Pan Ling Ling if Julie Tan were to sue.
Hong Huifang made it public with a text message to several Mediacorp artistes
If you haven’t caught up with what’s happened since Hong announced her acrimonious split from long-time bestie Pan, here’s what was splashed in the tabloids on Tuesday: The gist of Hong Huifang’s 1,100-word text message and why she is mad at Pan Ling Ling.
According to Channel8news.sg, the fuse was lit at a gathering of close friends in June, where Pan had brought up the topic of Calvert Tay being in a romantic relationship. Pan went on to suggest that Tay, who is Hong’s 18-year-old son, go for STD inoculation. As his alleged romantic partner had been exposed as 26-year-old actress Julie Tan, it was implied that Pan was casting aspersions on Tan’s character.
A tainted reputation
Tan has told Channel 8 that Pan’s words have tainted her reputation. And when news of Pan’s allegedly hurtful words reached Tan’s mother, Madam Doris Khaw, the older woman was so incensed that she threatened to take legal action against Pan Ling Ling. Madam Khaw also demanded a public apology.
Pan Ling Ling apologises
Following this, Pan, who had refused to respond to media queries since the news broke, finally acceded to a phone interview with Toggle in between takes on set on Tuesday. She apologised to Julie Tan and her family, saying: “I would like to apologise to them. I am friends with her mother and I don’t wish for her to have any misunderstandings with me, so this is the most basic thing I can do as a friend.” She added that she had not intended to hurt anyone with her words, and that she had not expected Hong to be so angry.
Has Hong Huifang been bullied all this time?
It seemed that Pan had also received the 1,100-word text message from Hong as well, but Pan had chosen not respond. Other than taking umbrage for Pan’s suggestion, Hong had also mentioned in her text that Pan had been “bullying” Hong through the course of their 20-year friendship, and was now doing it to both Calvert and his sister, Tay Ying.
While Pan has undeniably been caught up in a maelstrom, there’s a silver lining.
Lawyer says Pan Ling Ling could be off the hook?
An interview with well-known media lawyer Chung Ting Fai, who is a managing partner at Chung Ting Fai & Co, said that because Pan had spoken in private, whatever she said could not be construed as defamation, but fair comment. “Even if their close girlfriends were present at this gathering, it is still a private setting. She may have shared the suggestion out of genuine concern, so it is fair comment,” he said.
Photo source: Chung Ting Fai Facebook account
Hong Huifang is in more trouble, says media lawyer
He pointed out that unless Pan Ling Ling had personally gone around spreading rumours about Tan, it was ultimately Hong Huifang’s missive-laden text message which thrust Pan’s insinuation into the public spotlight. “Hong Huifang’s text message has widened the discussion to more parties outside of those present at the gathering in June. Unless, of course, she sent out the text message to only people whom she believed Pan had spoken to.
“By doing so, she has unwittingly cast aspersions on Julie Tan by crying foul – when there may perhaps have been no need to at all. It is a classic case of 此地无银三百两,” he said, referring to the Chinese idiom which, when loosely translated, meant giving away the whole game while trying too hard to conceal something.
Unless Pan herself has been sharing her suggestion with others who are unrelated to Hong and her son, Pan may not be liable for defamation at all.
Defamation is defined as the false statement that can harm the reputation of an individual, company, product or whole nation. The statement must be completely false, and it has to be given by someone other than the party that is being defamed.
So what can Julie Tan and her mother legally do?
The most realistic thing Julie Tan could do is to issue a letter of demand, either to Hong Huifang or Pan Ling Ling, depending on the circumstances, said Mr Chung. But it may be difficult to establish a defamation suit. “The onus will be on the defendant to prove that what she said is true,” he explained.
This means if Pan Ling Ling does get sued, she will have to prove that there is reasonable cause for her to suggest that Calvert should get STD inoculation. But if it’s Hong Huifang instead… We’ll let you figure this one out.
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Featured image credit: Toggle