Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
NEW! Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+ Try 7 Days Free

Malaysian news portal fined for readers' comments, raising free speech fears

World Feb 19, 2021 05:00AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
2/2 © Reuters. Malaysiakini's editor-in-chief Steven Gan arrives at the Federal Court in Putrajaya 2/2
 
META
-3.67%
Add to/Remove from Watchlist
Add to Watchlist
Add Position

Position added successfully to:

Please name your holdings portfolio
 

By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's highest court on Friday found news portal Malaysiakini in contempt over comments about the judiciary posted by readers, a ruling condemned by rights groups as a clampdown on free speech.

The Federal Court found Malaysiakini was fully responsible for publishing readers' comments that were critical of the judiciary and fined the news portal 500,000 ringgit ($123,762).

The landmark ruling comes on the heels of increasing concerns from rights groups over a crackdown on dissent under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

It could also influence how news sites and social media platforms such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter manage user comments in a country where traditional media is largely pro-establishment or linked to the state.

The ruling came after Malaysia's attorney-general last year sought to cite Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan for contempt over five comments posted by readers on its website that it said undermined public confidence in the judiciary.

"The impugned statements had gone far and wide... the content was spurious and reprehensible in nature and the content involved allegations of corruption which were unproven and untrue," said judge Rohana Yusuf.

Malaysiakini and Gan had maintained that they could not be held responsible and that the offending comments had been immediately removed after they were contacted by police.

The fine was more than double the 200,000 ringgit prosecutors had sought, though the court cleared Gan of any offence.

As one of the few independent news outlets in the country, Malaysiakini has often attracted scrutiny from authorities. It has long provided a platform for the opposition and been critical of the establishment.

Gan said last month that in the two decades since he founded Malaysiakini, its journalists had been declared traitors, faced debilitating cyber-attacks, been kicked out of press conferences, arrested, and raided by the police.

After the hearing, Gan expressed disappointment with the court's decision, which he said put a burden on news and technology companies to control comments posted by external parties.

"It will have a chilling effect on discussion of public issues in the country and delivers a body blow on our campaign to fight corruption in the country," Gan told a news conference.

'SHRINKING SPACE'

Rights groups, the United States and other foreign missions in Malaysia said the decision raised concerns about a free press and public discourse.

"The use of contempt of court laws to censor online debate and silence independent media is yet another example of the shrinking space for people to express themselves freely in the country," Amnesty International's Malaysia chapter said in a statement.

Authorities questioned Al Jazeera journalists last year and raided the broadcaster's office amid a probe into a programme they aired on the treatment of foreign workers. A foreign worker who spoke critically of Malaysia in the programme was deported.

The government had denied that it was clamping down on media freedom.

The ruling may also have broader implications for how social media companies like Facebook and Twitter manage their sites, especially as the case involved comments by third parties, said Malaysiakini's lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

"I would think it is safe to say that you could similarly take issue with postings or comments on Facebook or Twitter. But it's still premature and I think we should wait for the judgments," Malik said.

Facebook and Twitter declined to comment.

Malaysiakini launched a fundraiser, seeking public support for the penalty imposed by the court. It raised more than 500,000 ringgit in four hours.

($1 = 4.0400 ringgit)

Malaysian news portal fined for readers' comments, raising free speech fears
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email