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Portals now need to check readers' comments due to court ruling: lawyer

News portals and other websites in Malaysia now will have to double check their readers’ comments before uploading them following today's Federal Court decision, according to a lawyer.

Senior counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said that this was due to today’s court judgment that fined Malaysiakini RM500,000 for contempt of court due to readers’ comments.

Malik, who appeared for Malaysiakini today, said the important takeaway from today’s landmark decision was that portals which host third-party comments now need to be responsible for those comments.

“Portals like Malaysiakini will have to be responsible for comments that may be offensive and contemptuous. This is the majority view (of the seven-person Federal Court bench),” he said.

“On the face of it (the majority 6-1 judgment), any portal that allows comments must moderate the comments before publication to avoid liability,” he said.

He noted that today’s apex court decision was a policy decision for the courts below to abide by when dealing with such kind of cases.

“This is an important decision which makes clear how the press or how any organisation allowing third party comments (online) has to do.

“Before this judgment, there was no guidance (on the issue). Now we do,” Malik said.

Dissenting judgment

He noted the majority’s decision differed from the dissenting judgment by Federal Court judge P Nallini, who took the view that Malaysiakini could not be found guilty of contempt.

The lawyer explained the sole dissenting judge was of the opinion that Malaysiakini had taken down the offending comments within minutes after being alerted about them.

Malik said the judge took the view that this was in line with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia (MCMC) code which provides for a “flag and take down policy”, where a content platform is given a specific time to remove errant contents.

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