Malaysiakini fined for contempt of court, raises over RM700k for defence fund

Malaysiakini has raised more than RM700k for its media defence fund, days after it was fined RM500,000 for contempt of court last Friday. According to a banner on the website, Malaysiakini said the donation campaign has been suspended since it has achieved the required target.

The news platform was founded to be in contempt of court due to readers' comments perceived as offensive to the judiciary. The country's attorney-general filed an application to cite the news platform and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan for contempt of court over five comments from readers on Malaysiakini. According to Channel NewsAsia, the application said the comments "undermined public confidence in the judiciary".

The federal court said in a six to one decision last week that Malaysiakini "was fully responsible for publishing the readers' comments". Quoting judge Rohana Yusuf, CNA said "the impugned statements had gone far and wide" and the content was "spurious and reprehensible in nature". She added that the comments contained allegations of corruption which "were unproven and untrue", CNA reported.

While Gan was cleared of any offence, the fine was more than the RM200,000 which prosecutors had sought. Meanwhile, Gan and Malaysiakini said they are unable to be held responsible and that the comments were immediately removed when it was contacted by police. Malaysiakini is known for being a platform for the opposition and has previously criticised the establishment, CNA said, adding that the recent fine is a test of Malaysia's press freedom. A+M has reached out to Malaysiakini for comment.

In 2018, Malaysiakini also relied on crowdfunding to raise RM350,000 for its legal defence fund. It was forced to seek help from the public when it lost a defamation suit to Raub Australian Gold Mining. Malaysiakini was then ordered by the Court of Appeal to pay RM200,000 in damages and RM150,000 in legal cost. The news platform was sued over three articles and two video clips on health concerns expressed by residents regarding the mining activities. Malaysiakini said in a note on its website that the suit was initially dismissed by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur. The decision was however overturned by a three-member Court of Appeal panel on 11 January 2018.

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