Ismail Sabri Yaakob today said that he had never begged any political party to maintain their support for him to remain as prime minister.
Ismail, 62, said this in response to the statement of defence filed by the owner of Agenda Daily Media Enterprise, Muhamad Izwan Mohd Zubit.
Ismail is suing Agenda Daily in his personal capacity for defamation over an article titled “Ismail Sabri bimbang jadi PM paling singkat, ‘rayu’ jangan tarik sokongan”.
He said he believed that Izwan had not attended the ceramah at the Bera district council convention hall on Jan 29.
“At the ceramah, I made a speech which was referred to and published by local newspapers. At the material time before the publication of the article, the defendant did not contact me for verification or explanation of my speech at the convention.
“Instead, the defendant recklessly referred to articles published by local newspapers and published the article which contained defamatory statements against me,” he said in his reply to the statement of defence filed on April 6.
Overall, Ismail said the article had defamed him and implied that he was dishonest, selfish and desperate to continue being the prime minister in whatever way.
He claimed the defendant had failed to practise responsible journalism in publishing the article.
Instead, Sabri claimed that the defendant was influenced or motivated by malicious intent as he knew that the Johor state election was set on March 12. He said the defendant had aimed to belittle and tarnish his reputation as an Umno member and the prime minister.
“The excuse of ‘practising responsible journalism’ given by the defendant is completely unfounded and indefensible,” he said.
On Feb 18, Ismail obtained an interim injunction order from the High Court for the defendant to remove the posting and refrain from making any statements in relation to him.
On March 4, the High Court granted Ismail another ad-interim injunction against Izwan to maintain the status quo pending the disposal of the inter-parte injunction application on April 27.
In his statement of claim, Ismail said that on Jan 30, Agenda Daily Media had published an article on its website which contained various ill-intentioned, defamatory and untrue statements about him.
Ismail said that the article, among others, implied that he was desperate to continue being the prime minister and was even willing to beg certain political parties not to withdraw their support for him, in addition to inferring that he was concerned about becoming the prime minister with the shortest tenure in Malaysian history.
As a result of the publication, Ismail said his reputation as an Umno member and prime minister had been tarnished.
“The publication also caused me emotional turmoil and the defamatory statements contained in the article could also have a negative effect on my political career,” he said.
As such, Ismail sought an injunction order for the defendant to delete the defamatory article from all websites and social media operated by the defendant and an injunction order to prevent the defendant or his agents from issuing similar statements against him.
Izwan, 37, in his statement of defence, claimed that he and his company had practised responsible journalism in the publication of the article related to Ismail.
He also denied that the article contained defamatory and malicious statements towards the plaintiff.
The defendant claimed that the words used in the article did not have negative connotations in politics, and that they were not insulting.
Instead, he said, they reflected a politician’s humility in asking for support.
“The article was a fair and justified commentary and political analysis. If the plaintiff did not agree with the comments and analysis, at any time, the plaintiff as prime minister and a prominent politician always had the space and opportunity to answer and refute it,” he said.