KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak denied taking a selfie from his seat in the dock during his SRC trial but such reports still prompted the High Court judge to issue a general reminder that photography during court proceedings bordered on contempt.
Just before the afternoon session of Najib’s trial started, news of the alleged selfie reached the court.
High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali then asked Najib whether he “did or did not take selfie in open court”.
“Your Honour, I used it as a mirror to check my personal appearance, that’s all,” Najib replied.
Mohd Nazlan accepted the explanation but proceeded to issue his reminder and warning.
“I accept the explanation but I think I shall make the reminder, although Tan Sri (Shafee) said his client did not take selfie, but as a general reminder as this issue arises now and again.
“The court prohibits any form of photography in the courtroom; actually, it’s known to most people.
“Because if it were true, if a selfie were taken just now — accused (said) did not do it — otherwise it would be in my view, in open court, bordering as being in contempt, especially if during court proceedings.
“Because anyone who is caught taking photos in open court, if it ever happens in the future, will have to be dealt with severely, including for instance surrendering the mobile device to the police during court proceedings,” the judge added.
“The sanctity and integrity of proceedings must always be respected,” he said.
In concluding his reminder on the prohibition of photography during court proceedings, the judge said that the courts can only dispense justice if the administration of justice is not interfered with.
Earlier, ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram said allegations were rife on social media that the selfie had been taken in the courtroom and asked the judge to make a directive on the matter, saying that it was not good for the integrity of court proceedings to be “compromised”.
Najib’s lead defence lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, responded by complaining about a news report alleging his client took the selfie during trial.
Having singled out English-language portal The Edge’s report, Shafee said Najib denied doing so as reported.
“I have just asked Datuk Seri Najib whether he had taken a selfie. He said he would never do that. He felt something sharp near his eyebrow,” Shafee said, claiming that his client was using the phone as a “mirror”.
At this point, Mohd Nazlan pointed out that there were other news reports besides The Edge’s report on the same alleged selfie incident.
Shafee then claimed that other news outlets had also reported the alleged incident following The Edge’s report.
Several media outlets had earlier today reported on the same alleged incident.
Sithambaram then noted that only Najib could confirm if the selfie was taken and said a guideline could still be given if the latter did not do so.
The judge then asked Najib to clarify the matter.
After Najib’s one-line clarification regarding the “mirror” use and the judge’s general reminder against photography including selfies during court proceedings, Shafee asked the judge to give a reminder to the media not to write news reports of “zero value” and that any reports are for the purpose of assisting the “openness of proceedings”.
“My client is willing to go into the witness box over this issue because this is getting out of hand,” he said when suggesting this as an option to clarify the incident.
Mohd Nazlan however said he believed the media did not write their reports out of malice.
“I think reporters are also bound by the code of ethics.
“I don’t think it was done in malice, I’m sure. Maybe the way the phone was used as a mirror gives the impression that a selfie is being taken.
“I will leave it at that. The last thing I want is things like this to distract proceedings,” the judge said.
The trial then resumed with the 35th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial called in to testify.
Eyewitnesses in the court earlier today informed Malay Mail that Najib was seen allegedly taking a selfie from his dock, even as the trial was going on before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
Najib’s trial involves seven charges of abuse of position, criminal breach of trust and money-laundering over RM42 million of SRC International’s funds.