Court junks Ibrahim Ali's suit, says The Star's CEO's remarks not defamatory

In January 2013, Datuk Ibrahim Ali had called for the burning of Bibles, following reports that certain parties had distributed Malay-language Bibles containing the word ‘Allah’ to students. ― File pic
In January 2013, Datuk Ibrahim Ali had called for the burning of Bibles, following reports that certain parties had distributed Malay-language Bibles containing the word ‘Allah’ to students. ― File pic

SHAH ALAM, May 11 — The High Court has struck out Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali's defamation lawsuit against Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai as The Star chief executive officer’s remarks were not considered defamatory.

Wong's lawyer Yee Mei Ken said the court allowed his client's striking out application, adding that the judge found that a reasonable reader would understand Wong's article as legitimate criticism against the Attorney-General's Chambers' decision not to charge Ibrahim over his bible-burning call.

“The reference made in the article to Ibrahim Ali cannot be denied but the article is a writing against the Attorney-General's Chambers' decision and not against the Plaintiff (Ibrahim).

“Therefore the learned judge found that the words do not bear the defamatory meaning as pleaded by the plaintiff,” Yee told reporters here after the decision was delivered in chambers by judicial commissioner Gunalan Muniandy.

In ruling that Ibrahim's libel claim was misconceived, the judge found that Wong's article did not carry any imputation or attribution of fault on religious extremism and that the veteran newsman had relied on the views of prominent persons, Yee said.

The judge also found that Wong and Star Publications (M) Bhd would be bound to succeed on the grounds of fair comment, justification and qualified privilege even if the words in the article were assumed to be defamatory, Yee added.

For the justification defence, Yee said the judge noted that the two sued had proven the truth of the article's content as Ibrahim had also admitted to the bible-burning call.

The judge found that Wong had written his article without malice and had the duty to publish the commentary that was of public importance and on religious freedom, he said.

"It is neither false nor untruthful, therefore the defence of fair comment is also open to the writer," Yee said when explaining the judge's decision.

For the defence of qualified privilege, the judge also noted that both Wong and The Star's publisher have the social and moral duty to publish the article and the local daily's readers would similarly have an interest to read it, Yee added.

Both Ibrahim and Wong were not present in court today. The former was represented by Izyan Anis Musanif today.

Ibrahim, who named Wong and Star Publications (M) Bhd as defendants, claimed the words published by The Star newspaper on November 2 last year in the article entitled “A mind-boggling spin” implied that he was stupid, a religious extremist who had mocked Christianity and ought to be charged under the Sedition Act.

Wong, who is also The Star Publications (M) Bhd group managing director, had applied to strike out Ibrahim’s December 26 defamation suit on the grounds of fair comment, justification and qualified privilege.

Previously, both Star Publications and Wong denied that the article was published falsely or maliciously, arguing in their statement of defence they had a duty to publish it in response to the Attorney-General’s Chambers's justification for not pursuing action against Ibrahim over his bible-burning call.

In January 2013, Ibrahim had called for the burning of Bibles, following reports that certain parties had distributed Malay-language Bibles containing the word “Allah” to students, including Muslims, at SMK Jelutong in Penang.

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