5 Reader Comments Just Cost a News Website $124,000
Bangkok – Like many online news outlets, Malaysian news site MalaysianKani allows readers to post comments below articles. This proved costly on Friday, when a court ruled that the news site is legally responsible for reader comments, which are considered abusive to the judiciary.
A seven-judge court panel found Malayakini guilty of contempt of court and ordered him to pay a fine of $ 124,000, more than double the amount sought by the prosecution for the five comments left by readers.
Co-founder and editor-in-chief of the news outlet, Steven Gun, who was acquitted of the same charge, said the heavy fine was an attempt to get Malikini out of business.
Mr. Ganesh said after the hearing, “It will have a tremendous impact on discussing issues of public interest and this is a setback for our continued campaign to fight corruption.”
For decades, most of the media in Malaysia has been affiliated with the government, but independent news outlets – mainly online – have emerged to provide critical coverage and give voice to the opposition. Supporter of Shri Gan Has stated that he and Malayakini were being punished for diligent reporting of the outlet.
Readers’ comments were posted on a story about the Malaysian judiciary, which closely dictates its reputation. He was later dropped from the article, but not quickly enough to avoid charges.
In their decision, the judges concluded that Malayakini should pay attention to the comments and refrain from posting those who disobeyed the court.
The panel rejected defense arguments that Mr. Gan and the news outlets were not legally responsible for their readers’ comments and that the prosecution should have been required to prove that they wanted to publish the libelous material.
The fine of 500,000 Malaysian ringgit was about $ 50,000 more than the 200,000 ringgit that prosecutors sought. The defense had sought a fine of more than 30,000 ringgit, on the basis that it was the first time such a case was brought against a news outlet.
Within four hours of the verdict, donors to a defense fund had contributed more than enough to cover the entire fine, according to Malayakini.
Defenders of the site had argued that a guilty verdict would have the effect of obstructing the freedom of speaking in the country of 33 million, which has been littered with high-level government corruption allegations in recent years.
Amnesty International Malaysia said it was deeply surprised by the verdict, calling it “a raft of justice” and “a serious blow to freedom of expression in the country”.
The group’s executive director, Katrina Jorin Maliamouw, said, “Using court laws to free media from online debate and silence is another example of a place to weaken independent media.”
The United States Embassy in the capital Kuala Lumpur also expressed concern about the ruling. “Freedom of expression, including members of the press and the general public, is fundamental to public discourse and democratic principles,” it said in a statement.
The case was brought in June By Idaras Harun, Attorney General of Malaysia. He was named to the post by Prime Minister Muheedin Yasin, who Took power less than a year ago At the head of a neglected government.
Mr. Muheedin’s governing coalition includes former Prime Minister Najib Razak, Who is accused of scamming billions of dollars from a government investment fund that he once controlled.
Mr. Idrus serves as the first Attorney General in one of the Govt. Money laundering charges dropped Against Mr. Najib’s step-son Riza Aziz, a Hollywood producer, said in a deal that critics said he would be allowed to hold $ 83 million of quarter-billion dollars in government funds that he was accused of receiving .
More than 40 criminal cases have been leveled against Mr. Najib Now some of them are being tried. Maliyakini, along with other news outlets, has been covering the scam for years.
“I’m very disappointed,” Mr. Gan said. “What crime has Malayakini committed that we are forced to pay 500,000 when millions and billions of people are accused of power abuse who are running free?”