RECENTLY a suit was filed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Umno against news organisationMalaysiakini.
FormerMalay Maileditor Datuk Ahirudin Attan, also known as Rocky’s Bru’s take on this matter was that although he was against politicians suing newspapers or banning journalists for doing their job, there were rules as to what could be considered as news.
“I don’t think Prime Ministers and politicians should be suing newspapers for doing their job. I would be against anyone dragging to court bona fide journalism.
“But I have everything against people masquerading as journalists and using journalism for their political agenda and in the case of comments on blog postings, or news portals, comments are not done by journalists.
“Comments are made by people out there who normally do no identify themselves.
“They could be crooks, rapists, maniacs. You don’t expect me to defend their right to use journalism to criticise other people or condemn values,” said Ahirudin, adding that those commenting could also be cybertroopers.
He said ifMalaysiakinihad made a miscalculation in publishing something that was not journalism or truthful and was slanderous, then they should apologise.
“You can’t try and assassinate someone’s character and say ‘Hey, I’m doing this in the name of free press.’ That is ridiculous. That is too much,” said Ahirudin, pointing out that he had been held accountable for comments posted in his blog by DAP parliamentarian Jeff Ooi in the past.
“You are responsible for it. If you think that trash is journalism, then I’m so sorry for the editors atMalaysiakini. They should use their judgement whether that statement is slanderous. We are all trained as journalists to detect that.”
He added not anything and everything could be considered journalism and some things should not be published by news organisations.
“Specifically in what ‘Your Say’ columns. These are not bona fide views from readers or people out there. As long as it is not defamatory and slanderous, I suppose that it is okay. It has good entertainment value.
“But if someone finds that you are trying to tarnish his image, then the thing journalists and newspapers would do is stand up and apologise for their mistake. If not, you fight it in court.”
Umno Youth exco member Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz said if a politician thought he had been defamed, he should bring the matter to court and hold those defaming him responsible for their claims.
“I think when you say something not true, then you defame while libel can be something from a source that is not verified.
“If any head of state feels that he has been defamed, he should sue the news agency. The news agency has the right to report, but they have to be responsible for what they report.”
He also pointed out that people usually sued someone for defamation when they felt they had a strong case and the benefit of showing such confidence was more positive than negative for the claimant’s public image.
“If you bring it to court, then the public will say you have enough to face the consequences.
“In Malaysia, it can be used to shape public perception that you are not wrong,” said Faisal, adding that Opposition politicians had also used defamation suits to temporarily stop their detractors from “spinning” stories.