PUTRAJAYA, July 13 2020: The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has insisted that news portal Malaysiakini must take responsibility for its readers’ comments, which appeared on its website.
The AGC had applied in the Federal Court to have Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan be cited for contempt over five such comments in an article dated June 9, titled “CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1”.
Attorney-General Idrus Harun, who began the contempt proceedings on June 16 had stated that the respondents had facilitated the publication of comments which undermined the country’s judiciary.
Senior federal counsel S. Narkunavathy today argued on Section 114A of the Evidence Act that Malaysiakini should be deemed as having published the readers’ comments as it had “facilitated” them.
Under the provision, a person whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting him to be the owner, host, administrator, editor or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates the publishing or republishing of a publication, is presumed to have published or republished the contents of the publication, unless it is proven otherwise.
Narkunavathy said the AGC did not need to show that Malaysiakini and Gan had intentionally published the readers’ comments.
She stressed that the respondents should assume responsibility over the comments as it had provided the platform for them to be published despite putting safeguards to detect and block offensive comments from being published.
“They also cannot cite the volume (of the comments), and the difficulty of resources as well as constraints to shirk the responsibility,” she added.
Malaysiakini’s lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, however, argued that the AGC needs to prove that the news portal had actual knowledge of the contemptuous publication and intentionally published them.
He said Malaysiakini had previously provided details on the names and email addresses of the five readers who made the comments to the police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as well as permanently banning the subscribers who posted them.
Imtiaz had also highlighted that Malaysiakini and Gan had tendered their apology over the matter.
Court of Appeal president Datuk Rohana Yusuf, who chaired the Federal Court’s seven-man panel today, said the decision will be delivered on a date to be fixed.
The other judges on the panel are Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Datuk Seri Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, and Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli.