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Pro-government newspaper, Malaysian blogger agree not to publish news on lawsuit

Pro-government newspaper, Malaysian blogger agree not to publish news on lawsuit

A Malaysian blogger and a pro-government newspaper suing him for defamation agreed Monday to cease publishing items related to the case to ensure fair proceedings.
Lawyers for Ahirudin Attan and the plaintiff, the New Straits Times newspaper, issued a joint statement before High Court Judge Mohamad Hishamuddin Yunus during a brief hearing in his chambers.
The suit by the New Straits Times newspaper against Ahirudin stirred protests by commentators who said the action is a blow to free speech and an attempt to intimidate government critics. The Times sued another political blogger, Jeff Ooi, on similar grounds.
The newspaper alleges that Ahirudin and Ooi defamed the paper and its leadership. The cases are being heard separately.
A joint statement by Ahirudin and the Times said both parties agreed to "henceforth not publish any articles, comments or posts regarding the dispute presently before the High Court" that may prejudice a fair trial.
Ahirudin's blog, called "Rocky's Bru," features political critiques and frequently criticizes the New Straits Times' coverage. He also commented on last year's spat between former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Ahirudin's counsel Edmund Bon said his client voluntarily removed about 400 comments received from readers because some may be construed as legally off-limits while the case is going on. The comments were in response to four entries posted after the lawsuit announcement.
"It is in no way an admission" that any of the content was defamatory, Bon told The Associated Press. "There was no way to remove only selected comments, so we had no alternative but to put it all off-line ... We do this to err on the side of caution, to let the judicial process take its due course."
The lawsuits by the English-language newspaper were the first against Malaysian bloggers for publishing comments on the Internet.
Much of the traditional media in Malaysia are controlled by political parties or by the government, and the suits have raised fears that the freedom of online media may be in jeopardy.
The Times has said it does not want to shut down the blogs, but launched the suits because the postings were defamatory. The newspaper is alleging nearly 50 defamatory posts were on Ahirudin's blog, and 13 on Ooi's.
Ahirudin's move to strike down the lawsuit will be heard in court on Feb. 22. The suit against Ooi begins Tuesday.


Updated : 2021-05-18 23:46 GMT+08:00