Defamation suits today are a tool that rich and powerful corporations and individual persons are now using more and more to silence critics and those with a different opinion.
In Malaysia, corporations have used it against ordinary people and human rights defenders. Some examples of this are :-
* Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) filing three defamation suits against three members of the Ban Cyanide Action Group (BCAC), which has been critical of the company's gold mining in Bukit Koman, Raub, Pahang. - BCAC's chairperson Wong Kim Hoong, vice-chairperson Hue Shieh Lee, and secretary Hue Fui How.(Malaysiakini, 8/9/2013)
* In April 2012 Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC), has filed a defamation action against Malaysian protestors and opponents over their criticism of the company's rare earth plant (LAMP), which will process ores shipped from Western Australia.According to Brisbane Times, Lynas action at the Kuala Lumpur High Court targets mainly independent media Free Malaysia Today and blog-based opinionated opposition group Stop Lynas’s (SMSL) directors and committee members over an open letter published on the group’s web site
Lynas Corporation Ltd and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd sued FMT’s parent company, MToday News Sdn Bhd, claiming that the article “Lynas Must Go” dated March 6 also contained “false”, “damaging” and “defamatory” statements.
Sadly, it is not just corporations that are using defamation suits against critics or 'those that highlight alleged wrongs' or those who express themselves - we also have people like Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Anwar Ibrahim, Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob and lately even Nurul Izzah.(Just some examples, I got off the internet news reports)
January 2012 - Anwar filed the suit on January 10, 2012 seeking RM50 million in damages for the defamatory articles which appeared on the front page and page 10 of Utusan Malaysia.
23/11/2012 - PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar filed today a defamation suit against Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, claiming the newspaper had twisted her remarks at a recent forum to endorse apostasy among Malays — a highly sensitive issue in mainly Muslim Malaysia.
June 2014 - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has filed a libel suit, allegedly over readers comments published by the website, against online news publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd and two of its editors.19/12/2014 - Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob has sued Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad for its article, “Hebat Sangatkah Adnan”, which was published last November.
October 2015 - Anwar Ibrahim sues Mazlan Ismail, TV3, Utusan for defamation. He is seeking for general, aggravated and exemplary damages and an injunction to prohibit the defendants from repeating the republication of the defamatory statements.
October 2015 - Datuk Seri Najib Razak has filed a defamation suit against former MCA president Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik over remarks on the prime minister’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
26/11/2015 - Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar is suing Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob for allegedly implying that she had committed treason.
Now, they do not stop at just suing persons - but they also target the Media that gave space and reported the statements/opinions of these people. We see Malaysiakini, Utusan Malaysia, Free Malaysia Today and TV3 as examples of media outlets that have been sued.
The practice of suing reporters and media will result in the poor and less powerful losing media spaces - have you not noticed that names of companies that allegedly violate worker rights are generally not mentioned. In fact, very little report of such stories. Is it the fear of being sued that has led to this?
Not just sued ...but GAGGED?
Normally, the commencement of a defamation suit also would lead to an application of an interim injunction or 'gag order' to stop further publication of similar statements/opinions.
So, people with different views or things to highlight can no longer express themselves - and if they do, thanks to the temporary gag order by the Court which usually lasts until the cased is heard and completed, which can be years. The one who filed the defamation suit may lose - but they have been successful in silencing some people now that it may have mattered. Fair - I say it is so unfair.
Suing for Defamation is a Right BUT..
DEFAMATION SUITS - TOOLS OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL
Remember, that the courts today are today are more and more avenues for the RICH and POWERFUL - and when you file a defamation suit, you force the other to expend a lot of money, time and efforts - getting lawyers, etc ... and mind you, at the end of the day, courts can be merciless, in asking people to pay large sums of money as damages and cost... WELL, for the rich - no big deal but for the poorer, it is a big deal. [No problem, if RICH versus RICH - but when it is RICH against the poorer folk, it really not so just, is it now?].
And, at the end of the day - people may just apologize - not by choice but really maybe just because they just cannot afford the cost and the time fighting in court.
Duty to highlight wrongs or suspected wrongs, or even a different viewpoint(even if not thoroughly and scientifically researched)..
Now, people generally have a duty to highlight possible wrongdoings...suspected wrongdoings...etc - and this should be sufficient for the police or the relevant authorities to commence an investigation....
OR alternatively for the person/s(or even corporations) implicated to quickly come forth and clarify matters (or give their answer or views)...
CERTAINLY not right to expect people who 'highlight wrongs' or 'suspected wrongdoings' to now have to PROVE IT as well.
Ordinary people voice out their opinions - yes, just their opinions; but naturally not being lawyers (or experts on defamation law), they speak their mind in an 'unguarded' manner and this sometimes puts them into trouble ... and, for their failings, people should be excused, and CORRECTED ...not end up in court facing defamation suits and punished financially...
For people sometimes, they may 'verily believe something to be true' - but when confronted with an alternative view or even facts, they may change their mind as to whether it is true or not... Remember, the public are not fools, and they will listen to both sides before forming an opinion or a position.
Media, I believe, has a duty to to give space to alternative views which may be in the form of news reports, or even 'public comments' on their online portals.
To impose the duty on Media to having to vet each and every statement and comment using lawyers to ensure it is not defamatory before you publish, or to verify the truth of everything said or implied is just too onerous a task for media groups.
When it comes to news reports, all media groups are expected to try and get a response from the party implicated but if there was a reasonable effort to do so, it should suffice. We do not want news to be delayed (or 'not published') just because efforts to get a response failed. Media outlet naturally will have a duty to report any response by the party implicated even if it comes after publication. Fair is fair.
Raub gold mine sues three anti-cyanide activists
Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) has initiated three defamation suits against three members of the Ban Cyanide Action Group (BCAC), which has been critical of the company's gold mining in Bukit Koman, Raub, Pahang.
Three statements of claim have been sent to BCAC's chairperson Wong Kim Hoong, vice-chairperson Hue Shieh Lee, and secretary Hue Fui How.
RGAB is claiming that the individuals have committed defamation through their statements made in two news articles that were published in both Malaysiakini and Free Malaysia Today (FMT).
RGAB has previously filed defamation suits against both Malaysiakini and FMT, insisting that allegations that sodium cyanide used for gold extraction was hazardous to Bukit Koman residents are unsubstantiated.
The present lawsuits were filed on behalf of RAGB by its lawyers, Messrs Zul Rafique & Partners.
In the suits, the company is seeking general, exemplary, and also aggravated damages for "libel and malicious falsehood", apart from an injunction against the individuals from speaking about the companies' activities any further.
The quantum of damages sought were not specified.
The company is also seeking interest on the sum of damages from the date of publication of the articles until the date of the judgement, and a further interest sum between the date of the judgement to the date of the full and final settlement.
"..the plaintiff has been brought to public scandal, hatred, ridicule and their reputation/character has been injured/tarnished and lowered in the estimation of right thinking members in the general public, and suffered damage," the lawsuits read.
The company said in the lawsuits that the defendants have failed to contact the company in order to verify facts and figures before making the allegations.
When contacted later, Shieh Lee (left) said that she and her colleagues are prepared to fight the case since the lawsuits have been filed.
She and her fellow BCAC leaders have previously refused to apologise during three rounds of legal letters sent by RAGB since late last year to the BCAC leaders.
Malaysiakini has contacted RAGM chairperson Andrew Kam Tai Yeow but has not received any response so far. - Malaysiakini, 8/9/2013
Anwar Ibrahim sues Mazlan Ismail, TV3, Utusan for defamation
29/10/2015 - Datuk Seri Najib Razak has filed a defamation suit against former MCA president Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik over remarks on the prime minister’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal. - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/najib-sues-ling-for-defamation#sthash.MgBtMmU4.dpuf
3/6/2014 - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has filed a libel suit against online news publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd and two of its editors.
Also named as co-plaintiff in the suit is Umno, which is represented by the political party’s public officer Datuk Ab Rauf Yusoh.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today served news portal Malaysiakini with a writ of summons over readers comments published by the website.
The writ and statement of claim was delivered by hand to the news portal at its Bangsar Utama office today.
Named as defendants are Malaysiakini publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, editor-in-chief Steven Gan and chief editor Fathi Aris Omar.
Co-claimant in the suit is Umno executive secretary Abdul Rauf Yusoh.