KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 ― Umno, the country's largest political party, and its president Datuk Seri Najib Razak have filed a civil suit against news portal Malaysiakini over a series of readers' posts published on their website related to the recent Terengganu mentri besar saga.
The suit, filed on May 30 by Umno and Najib in his personal capacity through Messrs Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak, seeks general, special, aggravated, excessive and exemplary damages against the news portal for publishing allegedly defamatory remarks against both plaintiffs.
Umno and Najib are also seeking an injunction to stop Malaysiakini and its cohorts from discussing, publishing or causing to publish the said articles or similar articles, whether verbally, in print or on the internet.
The suit also seeks a written apology to be published in a newspaper or magazine to be identified by the plaintiffs, and in words to be determined by the plaintiffs, among other claims.
It named Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, Chief Editor Steven Gan and Chief News Editor Fathi Aris Omar as the defendants.
The suit centres on two articles published by Malaysiakini during the brief leadership crisis in Terengganu last May, titled “A case of the PM reaping what he sows” and “How much will Najib spend to keep Terengganu?”.
It claims the defendants had deliberately compiled the defamatory comments into the two articles, knowing full well the implications the articles would have against the plaintiffs.
By allowing the republication of the defamatory comments in the form of the two articles, the defendants, their agents or assistants are directly or indirectly liable for defamation against Umno and Najib, according to the statement of claim.
The plaintiffs also claimed that the publication of the two articles had allegedly sparked tension between them and the public, owing to the implication that both claimants were incompetent, without integrity, racist and immoral, among other charges.
Last May 16, Najib threatened to sue Malaysiakini over two allegedly “defamatory and seditious” articles on the recent Terengganu crisis if it refused to publish an apology within 48 hours.
Najib, who is also prime minister, had in his personal capacity issued legal letters to Malaysiakini a day earlier, saying that failure to meet his and Umno’s demands within the stipulated deadline would result in a lawsuit.
In its written response on May 20, however, Malaysiakini denied any wrongdoing in publishing the two articles, arguing that Umno had no standing to sue for defamation and that readers' remarks are deemed fair comment and not defamatory in nature.