GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has won a defamation suit against the New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad (NSTP) and its journalist over an article on a court proceeding last year.
High Court Justice Rosilah Yop said the court was satisfied that the report in Berita Harian (BH) was distorted and defamatory.
Rosiah ordered NSTP to pay Lim RM300,000 in damages with 5% interest per annum from today and RM35,000 in costs.
“The plaintiff has succeeded on balance of probabilities, proving the case against the defendant.
“The journalist was aware of the consent judgement reached in court… the defence of qualified privilege will not apply as it was not fair and accurate reporting of the judicial proceedings,” Rosilah said in her decision on the case today.
Rosilah said the errata published by BH following Lim’s legal letter was also “wholly unsatisfactory”.
“The court also views the imputed statements by the newspaper as very serious,” she said.
Lim sued NSTP, the publishers of BH, for a report titled “Guan Eng tarik balik saman terhadap bekas Ketua Pemuda Umno Negeri” (Guan Eng retracts suit against former state Umno Youth Chief) in its print edition on Aug 20, 2015.
Lim sought an apology to be published by BH in a “conspicuous” page of its daily, and a compensation deemed fit by the court.
In his statement of claim, Lim pleaded the article was not a fair and accurate reporting of the proceedings in the High Court.
The action against BH was after Lim reached a consent judgement settlement with Umno’s Shaik Hussein Mydin over two defamatory statements made by the latter on Oct 5, 2012 in an article on news portal Malaysiakini.
According to Lim’s witness statement, BH’s report made it appear as if he had dropped the suit without any condition imposed on Shaik Hussein.
Lim said the article made him look as if he had conceded defeat and implicitly admitted that he had no case against his opponent, among others.
“[…] The impugned statements are untrue and utterly deceptive as facts have been distorted in consequence of which the news articles manifested into false news.
“[…] As the terms of the consent judgement was pronounced clearly and audibly in the open court,each and every member of the media who was covering the proceeding would have known and understood that the plaintiff discontinued the suit upon the unconditional retraction of the defamatory statements by his opponent.” Lim said.
Meanwhile, NSTP’s witness and BH journalist Siti Sofia Md Nasir said she had merely reported that the suit between Lim and Shaik Hussein was dropped.
Sofia said in an interview with reporters, Lim had said he had dropped the case and Shaik Hussein had apologised to him.
“[…] When we asked Shaik Hussein (later) if had indeed said sorry to Lim, Shaik Hussein said he did not do that. This was contradictory to what was said by Lim.
“[…] After the interviews with Lim and Shaik Hussein, I got confused as both their statements were contradictory. On the other hand, these two people were politicians with their respective agendas.
“Hence, I only reported that the suit was retracted by Lim without any conditions with costs to be borne by respective parties,” Sofia said in her witness statement on behalf of NSTP.
Sofia said the story she authored did not side any party in the case.
Simon Murali of Lio and Partners represented Lim while Leong Wai Hong of Skrine and Co represented NSTP.