Maria: Bersih suing TV3 over RM3.2b Soros funding claim

Bersih 2.0's Maria Chin Abdullah said TV3 had made the defamatory claim “every day” on its prime-time slot Buletin Utama just before  her group’s Bersih 5 rally.. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Bersih 2.0's Maria Chin Abdullah said TV3 had made the defamatory claim “every day” on its prime-time slot Buletin Utama just before her group’s Bersih 5 rally.. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 will sue broadcast station TV3 for defamation over allegations of RM3.2 billion funding by US billionaire George Soros, the group’s chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said today.

Maria said TV3 had run news reports on the claim without attributing the allegation to anyone.

“We have already put in a letter of demand and TV3 has refused to apologise and retract, so we are proceeding with the legal case,” she told reporters here.

Maria said TV3 had made the defamatory claim “every day” on its prime-time slot Buletin Utama before her group’s Bersih 5 rally on November 19, adding that the broadcaster did not seek Bersih 2.0’s comments for the report.

In the November 11 letter of demand sighted by Malay Mail Online, lawyers representing Maria and 12 other Bersih 2.0 steering committee members referred to two news reports that were said to have been broadcasted by Sistem Television Malaysia Berhad’s TV3 television channel in Bahasa Malaysia and English on October 29 and October 30.

According to the letter of demand, TV3’s news reports had allegedly made untrue and baseless claims that the Open Society Foundations chaired by George Soros is funding Bersih 2.0 to purportedly topple the Malaysian government.

Denying the claims made in TV3’s reports, the Bersih 2.0 steering committee members also said they view the reports as a “malicious falsehood specifically designed to assassinate” their character and reputation.

“Our clients are fortified in their view, taking into consideration that none of them were contacted for verification or for their views before the said televised news report were aired. In fact, till today, none of them have yet to be contacted,” the letter said.

Bersih 2.0’s lawyers demanded that the broadcaster comply with five demands within seven days from the date of the letter or risk being sued for defamation, including the publication on TV3 and its website of a full and complete apology and retraction of the defamatory remarks.

The lawyers also demanded the company reply with a suggestion on suitable amounts for damages and aggravated damages as compensation for the damage to their clients’ reputation and the repeated defamation.

The lawyers demanded a written explanation from the company “disclosing your sources as to how you concluded that our clients were partisan to a plot to destabilise the government in collusion with Open Society Foundation and/or George Soros”, while also pressing the broadcaster for a written undertaking to not repeat the defamatory remarks.

Earlier at the launch of human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Maria had described the events leading up to her November 18 arrest and subsequent 10-day detention without trial under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, as well as the detention conditions and lengthy daily interrogation sessions .

According to Maria, the police investigators had during her Sosma detention focused on the funding of Bersih 2.0, including an alleged foreign funding of RM3.2 billion which she said “actually doesn’t even exist at all”.

She also said police had also questioned her on a RM2.6 million amount which Bersih 2.0 raised during last year’s Bersih 4 rally, which she said had already been publicly announced previously by the group.

Some of this amount raised was by supporters abroad who had collected funds overseas for Bersih 2.0, but the majority of the RM2.6 million originated locally, she said.

She later told reporters that Soros did not contribute to the RM2.6 million amount.