In Sosma detainees’ trial, court to decide if journalist can keep source identity secret

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan says his client’s application that was filed on April 29 is based on two grounds, namely that Tarshini Sukumaran’s evidence is ‘not relevan’ to the case and journalism ethics. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan says his client’s application that was filed on April 29 is based on two grounds, namely that Tarshini Sukumaran’s evidence is ‘not relevan’ to the case and journalism ethics. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — The High Court here will decide on whether to release a reporter from being legally compelled to testify and provide evidence that may reveal the identity of her anonymous sources in a news report.

Tarshini Sukumaran, a reporter from local daily The Star, is the sixth prosecution witness in the terrorism trial of two detainees under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) — Yazid Sufaat and Muhammad Hilmi Hasim.

“The application that we file is to set aside the subpoena on Tarshini and we also apply for any evidence that has been given to be expunged from the court’s records if the court allows,” her lawyer Syahredzan Johan told the court today.

Speaking to reporters later, Syahredzan said his client’s application that was filed on April 29 is based on two grounds, namely that Tarshini’s evidence is “not relevant” to the case and journalism ethics.

Syahredzan said Tarshini had quoted anonymous sources in her news report that was cited in the trial.

“We are saying she as a journalist is protected by the journalism code of ethics not to reveal her source, so to force her to come and give evidence which will definitely or most likely lead to revealing of that evidence is something which the prosecution should not do,” he said.

Last month, Tarshini told the court she had written a news report in The Star titled “Ex-militant: We send new recruits straight to the frontlines” on October 29, 2012.

She also previously confirmed conducting a phone interview with former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Yazid after receiving instructions from her editor, but stopped testifying midway under heavy objections from the defendants’ lawyer.

The hearing for the application before High Court judge Datuk Mohd Azman Husin has been fixed for this Thursday morning.

The objections by the two defendants’ lead counsel Amer Hamzah Arshad is based on the grounds that the prosecution is allegedly attempting to use Tarshini’s evidence to paint his clients in a bad light will also be heard together this Thursday.

Former army captain Yazid is accused of knowingly encouraging terrorist acts with the intention to promote an ideological purpose that is intended to threaten the public in Syria, while his cafeteria assistant Muhammad Hilmi was charged with abetting him in doing so.

They were charged under Section 130G(a) of the Penal Code, which covers the offence of inciting and promoting the commission of a terrorist act and carries a maximum 30-year jail term and fine.

Yazid and Hilmi were also charged under Section 130KA of the Penal Code with being members of a terrorist group — Tanzim al-Qaeda Malaysia, with those convicted of this offence liable to a maximum life imprisonment and a fine.

The first offence was allegedly carried out between August 1 and October 20, 2012, while the second offence was allegedly committed between August 1 and February 7, 2013.