Malaysian top court rules news portal guilty of contempt contempt Press freedom Portal Judiciary contempt

Malaysia’s top court dominated Friday {that a} fashionable on-line news portal was guilty of contempt for publishing readers’ feedback that criticized the judiciary, a landmark case slammed by media teams as a clampdown on press freedom.

Legal professional Normal Idrus Harun filed contempt proceedings towards Malaysiakini and its Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan over feedback made by 5 readers on its portal final yr that he stated undermined public confidence within the judiciary.

A seven-member panel within the Federal Court dominated 6-1 that Malaysiakini was chargeable for third-party feedback however exonerated Gan. It fined Malaysiakini 500,000 ringgit ($123,685).

Gan warned the ruling may limit dialogue of points of public curiosity.

“It is going to have an effect on not simply Malaysiakini. The choice will place an undue burden on media organizations, corporations and hundreds of thousands of social media customers … it has a chilling have an effect on on freedom of expression in Malaysia,” he advised reporters.

“In an atmosphere the place now we have a vibrant social media right this moment, it’s crucial we clarify, we illuminate, we educate … as a substitute of making an attempt to punish media organizations like Malaysiakini,” he stated.

Gan additionally stated the hefty nice, greater than double what prosecutors sought, was unfair and “an try to maybe not simply punish us however to close us down.”

Prosecutors have stated the portal ought to be held answerable for publishing the feedback. However protection legal professionals argued there was no intent of mischief, because the portal was unaware of the feedback and had instantly eliminated them after it was notified by police.

Middle for Impartial Journalism, a media watchdog, tweeted Friday that it stands in solidarity with Malaysiakini and “strongly condemns efforts by the state to intimidate and threaten media freedom and independence.”

Malaysiakini began in 1999 because the nation’s first on-line news portal. It shortly turned fashionable for its blunt reporting amid tight authorities management over mainstream media and the requirement for them to use for annual publishing permits.

On-line media have since expanded and performed a job that led to Malaysia’s first change of authorities since independence in 2018 elections.

Final March, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took energy after tying up with events within the former corruption-tainted authorities. Underneath his watch, rights teams have voiced concern over a crackdown on media, activists and others.

Police final yr grilled employees from news broadcaster Al Jazeera over a documentary on the remedy of undocumented immigrants that officers stated was unfair and biased. An activist was additionally questioned a few social media put up alleging mistreatment of refugees at detention facilities.

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