KOTA KINABALU, Feb 5 — The press may name the former Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) deputy director charged with criminal breach of trust despite being told not to by a judge, Tan Sri David Wong clarified today.

The Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak said he examined the directive from Sessions Court judge Abu Bakar Manat and found it not to be an official order not to identify the accused..

“There is no formal order from the judge that there is such a gag order. As far as the press is concerned, there is no gag order. You can publish whatever needs to be published.

“Maybe there was a misunderstanding between the judge and reporters as far as communications are concerned. But the bottom line is there is no gag order by court,” Wong told reporters after launching a pet ownership and animal welfare guidelines e-booklet here.

He was asked to comment on criticism of Abu Bakar’s decision to bar the media from naming the former MCMC official who was charged on January 22 with six counts of misappropriating property entrusted to her involving the sum of RM17,930.

The 40-year-old woman claimed trial to the charges of misusing money to facilitate and organise internet awareness programmes at six schools, between January 15 and February 27, 2017.

After the hearing, the judge had called reporters into his chambers and told them not to name the accused, purportedly to protect her children.

Today, Wong said an official gag order would require a formal application and decision by the judge.

“If there are children involved, there are provisions to the law, but in other circumstances, people can make the application for the judge to decide, then nobody can disturb the finding,” he said.

He then reiterated that there was no gag order in this case and dismissed the notion of an “unofficial” order by saying this was not permitted.

Separately, Wong commended members of the Sabah Law Society who put together the first ever Sabah Animal Welfare and Pet Ownership Guide with the assistance of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Kota Kinabalu (SPCAKK).

It is meant to raise awareness on the Animal Welfare Enactment 2015 and encourage responsible pet ownership.

“We are seeing more and more cases come to light about animal abuse and hopefully more enforcement of the Animal Welfare Enactment 2015 will see less of these animal abuse cases as Sabahans become more aware of our laws that protect animals,” he said.

The guidebook will be available on the Sabah Law Society and SPCA KK’s websites.