Court declines to rule on leaked Najib trial recording, bans public dissemination

Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks to Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 22, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks to Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 22, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 — The High Court declined today to rule on an application by the prosecution in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial for a court order over the leak of a recording of the proceedings.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who is presiding over the former prime minister’s RM42 million SRC International trial, said since a police report has been made, the court should not prejudge the matter as it was under police investigation.

“On the matter whether this issue constitutes contempt of court is not a matter for this court to decide either,” he said.

Mohd Nazlan also reminded the defence and prosecution that any video recording of court proceedings can neither be uploaded onto any public medium nor shared.

“Any form of recording is not permitted not only ‘live’ streaming and this includes the CRT (court recording transcript). The CRT is supplied on the express purpose of transcribing and not to upload.

“We expect that both the defence and prosecution who are officers of the court to abide by this. The public should not be making prejudicial comments as this may constitute as contempt of court,” he said.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram had raised the matter and pointed out that CRT footage could only be obtained by signing an undertaking not to forward the copy to other parties, nor upload it onto any medium.

“The prosecution seeks direction on the uploading of the CRT on the trial proceeding without authorisation.

“Upon signing the undertaking, it is here that both prosecution and defence, upon receiving of the CRT cannot make copies.

“We pray for a court order barring third parties from uploading the CRT without permission,” he said during the sixth day of the trial.

However, Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah disagreed and argued it was the prosecution who initially objected to the defence’s application for a gag order on proceedings.

“If they had not objected, this issue would have been taken care of from the beginning,” he said.

Shafee said for example, the dissemination of recordings of court proceedings is normal practice in the United Kingdom and that copies of these videos could be accessed in the national archives.

“Everyone has as much right to view the proceedings as those ‘who are watching this ‘live’ proceeding next door’ — media personnel following the trial in a separate videolink room,” he argued.

Sithambaram however maintained his argument, insisting that spreading the CRT was wrong and affected the court’s integrity.

Justice Mohd Nazlan said any transgression on the allowed use of the CRT would see the court withdrawing the privilege in the future, with members from both prosecution and defence having to make their own transcriptions or wait for the court’s transcription.

On Friday, a two-minute and 12-second video titled ‘The fifth day of Datuk Seri Najib’s trial’ featured a recording of Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee questioning a witness which went viral on social media.

It was learned that the recording was uploaded through the Facebook account of Najib’s former special officer Isham Jalil.

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