Malaysiakini verdict: Why is Pakatan grumbling at their own idea?

WITH the Federal Court finding online news portal, Malaysiakini guilty for contempt of court, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak reminded the public that it was the previous Pakatan Harapan Government that mooted the idea of publishers taking responsibility over readers’ comment.

“Our Pakatan leaders are criticising the Federal Court’s decision to slap a fine of RM500,000 against Malaysiakini for publishing five comments, which was in contempt of court.

“But they forget that it was a previous Pakatan minister that mooted the idea of taking action against online news portal operators’ who fail to monitor their readers’ comments,” he said, in a Facebook post.

Najib then published a report by Sinar Harian, dated March 11, 2019, which quoted then Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo of saying that the Government was mulling the idea of taking action against online news portals which allow readers’ comments insulting race, religion and the monarchy to get published.

He also said that if online news portal operators’ do not filter the comments section, it would enrage certain quarters and bring a lot of problems.

Yesterday, the Federal Court slapped Malaysiakini with a fine of RM500,000 for contempt of court, in relation to five comments posted by its readers.

In a 6-1 majority decision, led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf, they ruled that the online news portal was liable over comments posted by its readers.

The decision sent shockwaves across the globe, with many alleging that it was an attempt to clampdown on media freedom.

It is to note that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) only sought for a RM200,000 fine. It’s editor—in-chief Steven Gan was found not guilty of the same charge.

On that note, Najib voiced his concerns over the verdict, saying it would have far reaching repercussions on freedom of speech and press freedom.

“This will open up avenue for the Government to take the same action against others who have accounts on other sites such as Facebook, Instagram or any other outlet.

“And that is why, the Federal Court’s decision caught the attention of international media agencies,” the Pekan MP stated.

Yesterday, several Umno leaders voiced concerns over the verdict, saying it would set dangerous precedent in future cases, which may affect press freedom.

“Don’t curb freedom of expression,” Umno supreme council member Armand Azha Abu Hanifah was reported saying. – Feb 20, 2021.

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