Najib's legal action was initiated in his personal capacity and jointly with Umno through law firm Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak.
A letter of demand, which was hand-delivered to Malaysiakini late yesterday, claimed the compilation of readers' comments in two ‘Yoursay’ articles published on May 14, namely ‘A case of the PM reaping what he sows’ and ‘How much will Najib spend to keep Terengganu?’ , were defamatory.
The letter, signed by prominent Umno lawyer Mohd Hafarizam Harun ( right ), said the comments made in particular by six Malaysiakini readers, are also seditious.
"All the accusations made by users on Malaysiakini.com were totally baseless, without concrete proof and are very serious, on top of having ill-intent (mala fide) to damage the reputation and image of our clients,” said Mohd Hafarizam.
"They, among others, are also intended to lower the honour and credibility of our clients as the backbone of the BN government...," it said.
May seek injunction
Najib, who is also Umno president, and his party, are demanding an unconditional apology from Malaysiakini within 48 hours from the issuance of the letter of demand and a retraction of the alleged defamatory articles.
Najib and Umno also want Malaysiakini to sign undertakings that the news portal will not publish similar statements which they claim are defamatory and to be careful in publishing readers' comments which they say are "generally empty accusations and ill-intentioned allegations".
Hafarizam said if Malaysiakini does not respond to these demands, his law firm has received "strict instructions" to initiate court action against the news portal, including filing an injunction to prevent further publication of similar content.
In an immediate response, editor-in-chief Steven Gan ( left ) said the independent news website had expected such action after Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia attacked Malaysiakini readers last month.
He said the news portal, as always, will offer Najib the right of reply and to engage Malaysiakini readers.
“He is more than welcome to explain to them why he thinks their opinions of him and Umno are wrong,” said Gan.
He said the prime minister and Umno should present their views, which will be published in Malaysiakini , rather than threatening media organisations with libel proceedings.
Earlier yesterday Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Abdul Rahman Dahlan had demanded that Malaysiakini be held accountable for its “malicious articles”.
“Using irrational readers’ comments as headlines is gutter journalism... Don’t hide behind your mad readers’ comments,” he said in a series of postings in Twitter.
The spotlight fell on Najib after Kijal state assemblyperson Ahmad Said lashed out at the prime minister and threatened to bring down the Terengganu government when he was abruptly replaced as the state's menteri besar on Monday.
Ahmad ( right ), together with Ajil state assemblyperson Ghazali Taib and Bukit Besi state assemblyperson Roslee Daud, subsequently quit Umno and declared themselves independent .
The move saw BN losing its majority in the Terengganu state assembly with only 14 representatives to Pakatan Rakyat's 15, aside from the three Umno-turned-independent state assemblypersons.
However, the crisis was defused less than 48 hours later after Najib and Ahmad apologised to each other at a private conversation over what the latter said was a "misunderstanding" and the trio retracted their resignations from Umno.
Ahmad had explained his action was spurred by Najib's refusal to let to him step down after his daughter's wedding this Saturday, which he said was a matter of his "honour".
Apparently Najib had mistakenly thought that the wedding was held last Saturday.