Malaysian news portal ordered to pay damages to Australian minor in defamation case

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s highest court on Friday ordered the Malaysiakini news portal to pay 550,000 ringgits ($ 132,179.76) in damages in a libel case filed by an Australian mining company today ‘ hui disappeared.

The move comes as activists worry about freedom of expression in Malaysia and is the latest against Malaysiakini, an independent publication that has often come under scrutiny by authorities.

Malaysiakini was prosecuted in 2012 for posting several articles and videos about residents’ concerns about pollution allegedly linked to the gold mining operations of Raub Australian Gold Mine Sdn Bhd in Malaysia. The company said the articles were libelous and malicious.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court in 2016 ruled in Malaysiakini’s favor on grounds of responsible journalism and reporting, but the decision was later overturned on appeal.

The Federal Court upheld the appeals court ruling in a 3-2 majority decision on Friday, saying Malaysiakini had not been “fair, disinterested or taken a neutral approach” in reporting the residents’ campaign against mining activities.

The court ruled that Malaysiakini had not taken steps to verify the claims in the articles.

“This is irresponsible rather than responsible journalism,” the court said in a copy of its judgment seen by Reuters.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan expressed disappointment at the outcome and said the news portal had simply performed its duties as a journalist by reporting on residents’ health concerns.

Australia’s Raub gold mine could not be reached for comment. Lawyers for the company did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

In February, Malaysiakini was fined 500,000 ringgit after the Federal Court found him in contempt for posting reader comments on the judiciary, a move condemned by rights groups like a blow to freedom of the press.

($ 1 = 4.1610 ringgit)

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Martin Petty)


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