NST playing the bully

comments     Azmi Sharom     Published     Updated

The defamation suit against bloggers Jeff Ooi and Ahiruddin Atan by New Straits Times is a damning act on the part of that monolith of a newspaper. Not damning on these two men but on themselves, for by taking this action the NST has shown itself to be an agent for the oppression of opinion. It is an act one expects from the government but not from a newspaper.

Any newspaper worth its salt must defend freedom of expression, not curb it, and as such the NST is behaving in a shameful manner. It is shameful because if what these men and their readers said were untrue, then the NST has all the power and facility to oppose it in the best way possible and that is by intelligently and clearly refuting what was said. For God's sake, they are a newspaper. They are not some poor individual who had been defamed and has no other recourse but the law because he has no other option to defend himself.

The NST can print an entire special edition defending itself, but instead it chooses to use its money to put these men through the emotionally and financially draining experience of a court battle. What is infuriating is that there are so many other options open to the NST to debunk what they see are lies.

To pick this legal action is not about righting wrongs, it smacks of revenge. They claim that they are doing it to stop irresponsible bloggers. Now who on earth appointed the mighty NST to be the judge and executioner over what is responsible and what is not?

It is a trite fact that in this country freedom of expression is severely curbed, a fact that the NST should know about. To see a newspaper acting in this way is disheartening. They have the right to sue for defamation, that can't be disputed. But the main reason for suing for defamation is because one's reputation has been damaged.

It appears to me that whatever was said in those two blogs is not nearly as damaging as what the NST has done to themselves by playing bully.

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