PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has cut by half to RM150,000 the damages awarded to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who earlier this year won a defamation suit against an Umno-linked publication.
A three-man bench chaired by Mohd Zawawi Salleh, which partially allowed the appeal by New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad (NSTP), said the RM300,000 awarded by the High Court to Lim was excessive.
“We have deliberated the case carefully and we allow the appeal in part,” he said in the unanimous decision.
The bench ordered each party to bear their own costs.
The publisher had appealed against the finding of liability and quantum of damages awarded.
High Court Justice Rosilah Yop had said the publisher and its journalist had defamed Lim in an article on a court proceeding last year.
She said the court was satisfied that the report in Berita Harian (BH), a publication in the NSTP stable, was distorted and defamatory.
Rosiah ordered NSTP to pay Lim RM300,000 in damages with 5% interest per annum from the day of judgement and RM35,000 in costs.
She said the journalist was aware of the consent judgement reached in court and the defence of qualified privilege was not applicable as it was unfair and inaccurate reporting of the judicial proceedings.
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 over a report titled “Guan Eng tarik balik saman terhadap bekas Ketua Pemuda Umno Negeri” (Guan Eng withdraws suit against former state Umno Youth chief) published 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 came 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.
Simon Murali represented Lim while Leong Wai Hong appeared for NSTP.