Malaysian Politics - Anwar Wins Against NST
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Anwar wins against NST
UPDATED By Debra Chong (The Malaysian Insider)
Anwar wins against NST but won't get RM100m.
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 - Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim won his defamation suit against the New Straits Times today. The High Court today ruled that the daily may have had "sinister" motives behind an article it published seven years ago which linked Anwar financially to powerful US lobbyist, Douglas H. Paal.
But the court noted that the RM100 million Anwar is seeking in damages was a gross exaggeration. The court ruled that Anwar can only claim RM100,000 as compensation from the daily, plus another RM20,000 in costs.
An interest rate of eight per cent shall be added to the amount. Asked if the paper would appeal the High Court's decision, NST's lawyers said they have to wait for their client's orders first.
Lawyer for Anwar, Karpal Singh, told reporters that money was not the issue and they had not expected to get the RM100 million sum.
"It's a matter of principle here," said Karpal, who is also the DAP chairman. He added that Anwar had been cleared of corruption charges by the national anti-graft body ages ago, pointing to the testimony on Nov 11 from its then-director of investigations, Abdul Razak Idris.
High Court judge Harmindar Singh Dhalliwal, in reading out his 45-page decision, reasoned that the writer had failed to prove "fair, disinterested and neutral" intent when writing the article.
He noted that today's case was not only a defamation suit but "also about freedom of expression and the related role of the media". The NST article purported to show how Anwar Ibrahim - then the deputy prime minister - had used public funds to pay a former adviser to then-US President George HW Bush through a series of bilateral dialogues arranged by Paal's think tank, called Asia Pacific Policy Centre (APPC), in a bid to promote his image abroad, especially in the US and Europe.
There's an easy way to plan for retirement. Find out how The paper's former deputy group editor, Rose Ismail, now a media consultant, had stepped forward on Nov 11 and admitted to being the author of the anonymous article headlined "Anwar Ibrahim's link to US lobbyist", published on March 2, 2002.
While giving evidence under oath, Rose - named SD1 in the trial - claimed qualified privilege as a news agency to provide information on a matter of public interest at that time. She added that she was only reproducing an article from an American magazine, The New Republic.
But the judge ruled that the topic of the article was not urgent enough and Rose had skipped checking the facts for herself. He warned that the standard of care for American reporters is much lower than anywhere else in the world and they could even "get away with publishing false news".
He said that she could and should have tried to interview the main players in the story, namely Anwar Ibrahim; Paal; and a former senior Bank Negara official whose statutory declaration had kickstarted corruption investigations on Anwar, who was also the finance minister then.
"I think that if you are going to print something serious and discreditable about someone, it is elementary fairness that you seek a response. "I therefore think that for the defendants to rely almost solely on The New Republic magazine without any verification was poor journalism," he said.
The judge added that the article ended up showing a one-sided view which did not benefit the public. "I also do not think that this is a neutral report because what SD1 is trying to do, as she herself admits, is to explore the links between APPC, Douglas Paal, the funding by the Malaysian government and the plaintiff," Harmindar said of Rose's testimony.
"Her intention, thereof, is not mere neutral reporting but to assert something more sinister on the part of the plaintiff than what had appeared in The New Republic article.
I am therefore unable to accept her subsequent assertions that her article was a mere reproduction," he added.
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