[Full Story] Malaysiakini found guilty & fined 120, 000 USD because of readers comment #Malaysiakini
Malaysia’s highest court on Friday found Malaysiakini, the country’s most popular online newspaper, guilty of contempt of court over comments posted by readers that were deemed offensive to the judiciary, fining the publication 500,000 Malaysian ringgit ($123,644) in a case widely seen as a test of media freedom in the Southeast Asian nation.
In a six-to-one decision on Friday, the Federal Court ruled that Malaysiakini held full responsibility for its website, including any comments left by readers. They said the case was a “reminder” to the public not to use online comments to attack the judiciary and that the fine reflected the gravity of the offence.
“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, who chaired the panel of judges.
Gan, who was found not guilty, said he was disappointed at the decision.
Malaysiakini has until February 24 to pay the fine, which was more than twice the amount demanded by the prosecution. The publication immediately began a fundraising campaign.
“We hope that Malaysians will contribute to our fund,” Gan said. “Openness to critical views is a sign of a strong and healthy institution. For 21 years, Malaysiakini has relied on the generosity of the public to continue its mission. We again call upon Malaysians to come to our aid.”
Media freedom worries
Malaysia’s Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), which has been following the case, said it stood with Malaysiakini.
CIJ “strongly condemns efforts by the State to intimidate and threaten media freedom and independence,” it said on Twitter.
In January, Gan said reporters should not “give up” in the face of what he described as “harassment” by the government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who took office nearly a year ago after a power grab within the ruling coalition prompted by the resignation of his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad and a political realignment that brought the once-dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) back into government.
Malaysia has moved up the rankings in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index in recent years, but the country is designated only “partly free” by US non-profit organisation Freedom House.
Earlier this month, the government suspended parliament under a “state of emergency” that will last until August, blaming the coronavirus pandemic.