Malaysian blogger’s suit kicks off

Media group sues for defamation in country's first online libel case

    Ahirudin Attan, right, on his way to Malaysia's first defamation suit against bloggers
    Ahirudin, a former senior editor within the NSTP group for over 20 years, before volunteering for a severance package last year, said his online journal had become a local media watchdog which also offered political critiques.
    "I started the blog to share my views," he said outside the court in Kuala Lumpur.
    "When you start something, you write something you know… something you're knowledgeable about and that's what I think I've been doing.''
    Edmund Bon, Ahirudin's lawyer, said he had applied to strike out the suit because the NSTP's allegations were unclear.
    "We do not know which article and which plaintiff is being referred to in the suit," he told Al Jazeera.
    The NSTP claimed in its suit that Ahirudin had published 48 defamatory posts on his blog.
    Storm of protest
    On Monday, a court will hear whether additional comments on the lawsuit posted recently on Rocky's Bru should be included in the defamation suit.
    The libel suit by the publisher of Malaysia's oldest English-language daily, the New Straits Times, has stirred a storm of protest by commentators who have said the action is a blow to free speech and an attempt to intimidate government critics.
    The NSTP has sued another blogger, Jeff Ooi, on similar grounds.
    The lawsuit against Ooi, who is alleged to have had 13 postings of a defamatory nature, starts on Tuesday.
    Most of the mainstream media in Malaysia is controlled by political parties or by the government, heightening fears that the freedom of the country's alternative news medium may be in jeopardy.
    Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's prime minister, has backed the company's right to sue the bloggers, saying that bloggers are not above the law and have to be responsible for their content.
    "They cannot hope to cover themselves or hide from the laws. What is freedom without responsibility?" he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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