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Federal Court to hear contempt case against Malaysiakini tomorrow

Published
Modified 1 Jul 2020, 5:18 am
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Contempt proceedings against Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan will be heard at 9am tomorrow at the Federal Court in Putrajaya.

Submissions are expected to begin in the morning, before a panel of probably seven judges at the Palace of Justice.

Malaysiakini filed an application, last Thursday, to set aside the Federal Court ruling granting leave to attorney-general Idrus Harun to commence contempt proceedings against the online news portal.

The Federal Court is expected to hear this set-aside application first. Should the judges deny the application, then the court will proceed to hear the contempt proceedings.

It is possible that a decision could be delivered immediately after lawyers have completed their submissions, which may take the whole morning. Should Malaysiakini and Gan be found to be in contempt, sentencing could be handed down on the same day.

There is no legal limit to the penalties for contempt of court.

In April 2019, lawyer Arun Kasi was jailed 30 days and fined RM40,000 over comments he made regarding a Federal Court proceeding.

Contempt proceedings against Malaysiakini and Gan were initiated by Idrus on June 16. In his affidavit, Idrus said the accused had facilitated the publication of readers' comments, which undermined the judiciary.

The five allegedly offending comments appeared in an article dated June 9 titled 'CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1'.

"(The comments) clearly meant that the judiciary committed wrongdoings, is involved in corruption, does not uphold justice and compromised its integrity,” Idrus said.

"These comments threaten public confidence in the judiciary and are clearly aimed at tarnishing the administration of justice by the judiciary.”

‘Scandalising the court’

The attorney-general has submitted that the offending comments scandalised the court as it was an indirect attack on Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, exposed the judiciary to public scandal and would lead to an erosion of public confidence in the judiciary.

Gan said that the case will have a tremendous impact, not just on Malaysiakini but also on other media organisations, tech companies and millions of Malaysians who use social media.

“This contempt of court action against Malaysiakini is for comments posted by our readers,” said Gan.

“This is despite that we have removed the allegedly contemptuous comments from our website not long after the news report on the reopening of the courts was uploaded.”

Malaysiakini is represented by lawyers Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Surendra Ananth.

A number of organisations will be holding watching brief at the hearing, including the Bar Council, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) and the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).

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