Thursday, December 2, 2021

Apex court finds Malaysiakini guilty of contempt but spares editor

A seven-member bench says the news portal is fully responsible for its website, including whatever is published.

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The Federal Court today found news portal Malaysiakini guilty of contempt over comments posted by readers seen as offensive to the judiciary.

However, a seven-member bench led by Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf found the second respondent, editor-in-chief Steven Gan, not guilty of the same offence.

In a 6-1 majority decision, the bench said Malaysiakini should have been aware of the comments posted.

Rohana was joined by judges Azahar Mohamed, Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, Abdul Rahman Sebli and Nallini Pathmanathan, who dissented.

Contempt proceedings against Malaysiakini’s operator, Mkini Dot Com Sdn Bhd, and its editor-in-chief began in June last year.

The attorney-general had said that five comments posted by readers on a June 7 report titled “CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1” contained words offensive towards the judiciary in general and the chief justice in particular.

The attorney-general also claimed that the comments undermined public confidence in the judiciary and were an insult to its integrity.

However, Malaysiakini and Gan said the portal had no intention of publishing such comments and that these had been immediately removed once they were contacted by the police.

The court fined Malaysiakini RM500,000, to be paid within three days from Feb 22.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers had asked for a fine of RM200,000 while the news portal’s lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, asked for a maximum fine of RM30,000.

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