Local newspaper publisher Lam Chong has been acquitted of defamation in a case involving three senior members of the Macau Civil Servants Association (ATFPM) – directly-elected lawmaker José Maria Pereira Coutinho, who heads the association’s board of directors, Rita Santos, who chairs its general meeting, and Armando de Jesus, a vice-president of the board of directors.
Lam, who was acquitted by the Court of First Instance (TJB) on Friday, is a seasoned commentator and director of the Chinese-language daily San Wa Ou, also known as Correio Sino-Macaense.
The trial was about an article published by the newspaper in 2017 which appeared to insinuate that the trio, all of them members of a council representing overseas Portuguese, had charged applicants 18,000 yuan (21,560 patacas at the current exchange rate) each for assisting them to obtain or renew a Portuguese passport.
The court ruled that the trial could not prove that Lam intended to defame the plaintiffs who each had requested 50,000 patacas in damages.
According to the ruling, the interpretation of the article depends on the each reader’s reasoning.
Vong Keng Hei, Lam’s lawyer, told reporters outside the courthouse that he and his client were satisfied with the ruling.
The Portuguese-language TV channel of government-owned broadcaster TDM said in an unsourced story on Friday that the three plaintiffs were planning to appeal.