The New Straits Times has been ordered by the High Court to pay RM130,000 in damages and costs to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng for two supposedly defamatory articles published earlier in 2018. According to NST and Malay Mail, NST was also ordered to publish an “unconditional apology” in New Sunday Times over two articles – “Come clean on payments, Penang urged” and “Penang BN claims CM lied over 4 issues” – which were published on 17 and 19 January respectively.
NST is required to admit in the apology that the two articles carried statements that were “defamatory to Lim”, who was formerly chief minister of Penang. It is also required to apologise “unreservedly” to Lim for the publication of the articles, media reports stated. The High Court said that both terms must be fulfilled within 14 days from the judgement.
The defamation suit was previously filed by Lim against NST over the two articles which used statements issued by then Penang Barisan Nasional chairman, Teng Chang Yeow. Lim claimed that NST‘s articles presented him as having lied to the public about the undersea tunnel project and misleading the public on matters of public expenditure. Media reports also stated that Lim claimed the articles said he abused his position as Penang’s chief minister, is a “schemer”, “manipulator” and “habitual liar”, as well as an individual who lacks good character, dignity, credibility, integrity and respect.
According to Lim, NST “failed” to exercise the necessary standard of professionalism in publishing the articles and failed to take “reasonable steps” to verify the truthfulness of Teng’s statements. NST was also alleged to have not given Lim “reasonable opportunity” to respond to the allegations and failed to publish his explanation on the matter.
As such, Lim sued for general damages, including aggravated damages and exemplary damages, costs and other reliefs deemed appropriate by the court, media reports stated. Meanwhile, NST maintained that it requested for his response in a press conference but Lim said he would only answer in court.
In May this year, Media Prima’s TV3 was ordered to pay RM1.1 million in damages to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, after ruling that one of the TV station’s news reports had defamed him five years ago. The report linked Anwar Ibrahim to the Lahad Datu intrusion in Sabah, which was a military conflict that arose, which saw approximately 200 militants from a Philippines clan lay seige to Sabah’s Lahad Datu district.
TV3 was ordered to pay general damages of RM600,000, aggravated and exemplary damages of RM250,000 each, as well as costs of RM40,000. TV3 was described by Judge Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim as having “failed to practice responsible journalism”, when no verification was sought on the legitimacy of the news report before airing it on Buletin Utama on 2 March 2013.