Malaysia’s PM threatens Malaysiakini with legal action over reader comments

Malaysiakini's story about Najib threat

Malaysiakini’s story about Najib threat

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, has threatened independent news website Malaysiakini with legal action over the comments published beneath one of its stories.

Razak has alleged that the comments beneath a story about the government’s handling of a political crisis in the state of Terengganu are defamatory and seditious, and could damage his reputation and that of his party.

He has demanded, via the law firm of Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak, an apology, the two articles deemed defamatory to be retracted, and a promise to never publish comments that contain “generally empty accusation and ill-intentioned allegations.”

The two articles in question were headlined ‘A case of the PM reaping what he sows‘ and ‘A case of the PM reaping what he sows’.

Malaysiakini’s editor Steven Gan has said that he believes this is the first time that a Malaysian Prime Minister has threatened to sue a media organisation.

He said that Malaysiakini would offer the PM the right to rely and to engage his site’s readers.

“He is more than welcome to explain to them why he thinks their opinions of him and Umno [Malaysia’s ruling party] are wrong,” Gan said in an article on Malaysiakini.

He added that Najib should present his and his party’s views rather than threatening libel proceedings.

Benjamin Ismaïl, head of the Asia Pacific desk for Reporters Without Borders, said: “The threat of legal action against news media on behalf of a serving Prime Minister constitutes a potential threat to freedom of information. As a public figure, Najib Razak must learn to accept criticism. He has other ways to make his views known and to express disagreement, in particular using his right of reply.”

Malaysia does not rank highly in press freedom index Reporters Without Borders. The country features 147th out of 180 countries in this year’s index, below Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar.


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