Court of Appeal reduces damages awarded in TV3-Anwar defamation suit to RM600,000

PUTRAJAYA (May 3): The Court of Appeal today reduced damages which Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (TV3) and the then Media Prima Bhd and Current Affairs Radio and Television group managing director Datuk Shaharudin Abdul Latif have to pay to opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for defamation.

From an amount of RM1.1 million for aggravated and exemplary damages ordered by the High Court, the three-member bench allowed TV3 and Shaharudin's appeal to reduce the quantum to a global sum of RM600,000.

The award is over the television station's defamatory report which accused the PKR president and Port Dickson member of Parliament of being one of the masterminds of the Lahad Datu incursion in Sabah in 2013.

Justice Datuk Has Zanah Mehat, who led the bench, allowed the appeal to reduce the damages after hearing submissions from counsel J Leela, who appeared for Anwar, and counsel Liew Teck Huat for TV3.

"We are allowing the appeal in part where we will vary the award given in May 2018, which separated the exemplary and aggravated damages. We award the global sum of RM600,000 for general and aggravated damages," she said.

The other judges were Justices Datuk P Ravinthran and Datuk Mohd Soffian Abdul Razak.

The bench also ordered parties to bear their own costs of the appeal which was allowed in part.

Liew claimed that the High Court’s judgement on the defamation suit is not meant to overly punish the defendant (TV3). 

The television station’s counsel stood firm that TV3 was only being a responsible news distributor that relayed information from reports they received from international media and did not mean any ill intent to the opposition leader.

He argued that the order for damages being separate should not have been made by the High Court, as the judge did not follow present judicial trends in granting damages and appealed for a global sum of RM300,000 in general, aggravated and exemplary damages. 

Ravinthran asked Liew that if High Court Judge Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim’s judgement deemed that TV3’s actions were malicious, and questioned if it was fair for the TV3 counsel to state in his submission that there was no malice in the television station’s actions.

He replied that the High Court judge’s judgement that TV3’s actions were malicious was based on the television station not verifying the information before publishing its report and this alone should not constitute higher damages.

Meanwhile, Anwar’s counsel replied that TV3’s actions were malicious, citing Justice Ahmad Zaidi’s ground of judgements.

She pointed out that TV3 was given several opportunities to settle this case out of court and withdraw its report, which was published right before the 2013 general elections, but they refused to do so.

“There should be a penal element to irresponsible journalism, therefore the damages are not unwarranted as there were clear indicators of malice

"Unlike Utusan Malaysia, which apologised and retracted their article, TV3 did not apologise,” J Leela said.

TV3 was previously ordered by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on May 14, 2018, to pay a total of RM1.1 million in damages to Anwar after the television station had falsely reported that he was linked to the Lahad Datu intrusion in Sabah eight years ago.

Justice Ahmad Zaidi granted the amount after finding the television station had failed to practise responsible journalism when it did not verify the authenticity of the news before airing it in its Buletin Utama on March 2, 2013.

The High Court found that there was malice on TV3’s part for broadcasting news which was purely based on Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd’s report.

Justice Ahmad Zaidi added that despite Utusan admitting that its report was false and had no basis, TV3 was still firm in not settling the suit.

The High Court judge ordered the television station to pay RM600,000 in general damages, RM250,000 in aggravated and exemplary damages each, and RM40,000 as costs to the opposition leader.

Anwar had filed the suit against Utusan Melayu, Utusan's former group editor-in-chief Abdul Aziz Ishak, TV3, Shaharudin, and Buletin Utama news editor Ing Boon Seng on March 8, 2013.

The Port Dickson MP sued them over the front-page article “Ketua Pembangkang dikaitkan dengan pencerobohan?” (Opposition leader linked to intrusion), published in Utusan Malaysia on March 2, 2013.

Anwar had reached an agreement with Utusan and its former group editor-in-chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Ishak to settle the case on Oct 5, 2016, after the company’s counsel read out a statement of regret on behalf of the company in open court as part of the terms of settlement.

Under the terms, Utusan and Abdul Aziz agreed to pay Anwar RM50,000 in damages and publish the statement of regret.


Zahid sues Malaysiakini for alleged defamation on news coverage of trial, readers’ comments; seeks RM220m

Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex March 19, 2021. ― Photo by Hari Anggara
Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex March 19, 2021. ― Photo by Hari Anggara

Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on news you need to know.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has filed a defamation lawsuit against media outlet Malaysiakini to seek RM220 million in compensation over the publishing of news reports on his corruption trial and its readers’ comments about him.

In the defamation lawsuit filed at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, Zahid, who is the former deputy prime minister and also currently the Bagan Datuk MP, named three defendants, namely Malaysiakini’s company Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, its editor-in-chief Steven Gan and a reporter.

In court papers for Zahid’s defamation suit, which were sighted by Malay Mail, his lawyers singled out 22 articles published by Malaysiakini for allegedly containing defamatory elements relating to Zahid’s trial.

The 22 articles listed in the court papers included seven news reports by national news agency Bernama all in Bahasa Malaysia, news reports by Malaysiakini all in Bahasa Malaysia, and also an article containing Malaysiakini’s readers’ comments which were in English.

Among other things, Zahid claimed the articles to be false and were allegedly published with malice, further claiming that the articles and readers’ comments had harmed his reputation as an MP responsible for ensuring the people’s welfare.

Zahid also claimed that the allegedly defamatory articles and comments had caused him to be criticised and brought about a loss of confidence in society towards him, also claiming that the publishing of such articles had lowered his dignity as the Umno president, Barisan Nasional chairman and Bagan Datuk MP and allegedly caused his credibility to be questioned by the public.

In his defamation lawsuit filed through his lawyers Shahrul Hamidi & Haziq, Zahid said he was seeking general damages or compensation of RM10 million each for all 22 articles or a total of RM220 million, as well as aggravated damages, and exemplary damages.

Also as part of the defamation lawsuit, Zahid sought for a court order for the articles to be removed immediately, as well as injunctions to prevent the publishing of the articles and comments and to prevent the publishing of further defamatory articles and comments on his trial.  

He also sought for court orders for Malaysiakini, its editor-in-chief and its reporter to publish a written unconditional apology using terms to be determined by Zahid in newspapers of his choice.

In the court papers, Zahid’s lawyers said 21 letters of demands had been sent on August 17, 2020 to Malaysiakini over the articles to demand compensation totalling RM210 million, as well as unconditional retraction of the articles and a written apology in newspapers, among other things.

Zahid’s lawyers said Malaysiakini’s lawyers had in a letter dated August 28, 2020 responded by denying that any law had been breached over the articles, with Zahid’s lawyers indicating in the defamation lawsuit that court action was needed to stop the publication of the articles.

Today, in reporting on the filing of Zahid’s defamation lawsuit, Malaysiakini said however that its lawyers had in the August 2020 response sought further clarification on which parts of the articles were allegedly defamatory.

“Your notices of demand do not make it clear the particular words and or comments in the appendices which are alleged to be defamatory of your client, but make a general statement that all those news reports bear the same meanings, and are alleged to be defamatory to your client,” Malaysiakini quoted its lawyer K. Shanmuga as writing.

Malaysiakini today also said that Zahid’s lawyers had not responded to the request for clarification, but had in the defamation lawsuit filed last week singled out the parts in the articles and the readers’ comments that they believed were defamatory against Zahid.

Zahid, who is also a former home minister, is facing 47 charges in the trial mentioned in his defamation lawsuit.

The 47 charges are 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds where he is a trustee, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

Zahid’s trial had started on November 18, 2019, with 99 prosecution witnesses having testified over 53 days of trial. Hundreds of documents were presented by the prosecution during trial.

The prosecution on March 19, 2021 rested its case, with the High Court then fixing May 28 for both the prosecution and the defence to file in their written submissions, and June 11 for both sides to file in replies to the written submissions.

The High Court also fixed five days for oral submissions on June 28, 29, 30 and July 1 and 2 for lawyers from both sides to present their final arguments, before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah decides on whether the prosecution had made out its prima facie case and whether Zahid would be called to enter his defence.

A decision at the end of the prosecution case would be on whether there is a sufficient case for Zahid to be called to enter his defence or whether he would be freed of the charges. - Malay Mail, 26/3/2021