Umno veep: I’m no fan, but Malaysiakini’s right, freedom as news platform should be defended

Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin speaks during a press conference at Johor State Umno liaison office, May 10, 2018. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin speaks during a press conference at Johor State Umno liaison office, May 10, 2018. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — Another political leader has spoken out against the recent fine imposed on online news portal Malaysiakini for contempt of court, this time Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

He said only with a free and neutral media can democratic practices mature and become better, as the nation’s administration will have an instrument of checks and balances, and the public a free range of choices and variety of information sources.

“I am neither a fan nor supporter of Malaysiakini, given it has previously taken my statements out of context. Indeed, I have been relentlessly criticised and attacked on their spaces. Yet there is one thing I believe, and that is their right and freedom as a news platform should be defended,” Khaled said in a statement.

Although the former Permas assemblyman is confident the Federal Court has its own solid rationale and justification for handing down the fine, he nonetheless respectfully disagreed with it.

“I am certain many among us are affected by the fining of Malaysiakini. Considering the decision will be used as a referral point in media practice, it is thus necessary for all to ensure that media and press freedom in Malaysia, especially online, is done more ethically with decorum.

“We must ensure our media remains independent, neutral and does not fear in stating or upholding views, be it their own or the general public’s. I hope this latest development will not weaken the resolve of media practitioners in Malaysia,” Khaled said.

Yesterday, Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf handed down the RM500,000 fine to Malysiakini’s operator Mkini Dot Com Sdn Bhd following the decision by a panel of seven judges.

The news portal was penalised for facilitating five readers’ remarks against the judiciary on its website.

The comments were posted under a June 9, 2020 news report titled “CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1” with Malaysiakini having previously said that it was alerted at 12.45pm on June 12 about these comments when police contacted them to notify them about investigations regarding these comments.

In court documents, Malaysiakini previously said it was not aware of the five offensive comments previously as no readers had reported these comments and as the comments did not carry any of the “suspected words” that Malaysiakini’s filter could detect, further noting that the editorial team had immediately reviewed the comments upon being alerted by the police and removed the comments at 12.57pm the same day.

On June 17, the Federal Court allowed the Attorney General to start contempt of court proceedings against Malaysiakini’s operator Mkini Dot Com Sdn Bhd and Malaysiakini’s “Ketua Editor”.

Shortly after the sentence was handed down, Malaysiakini kickstarted a campaign drive to pay off the fine, which managed to reach its targeted goal within four hours.

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