KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 – The two founding members of independent news portal Malaysiakini were today acquitted by the Sessions Court here over several charges under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998.
Editor-in-chief Steven Gan and chief executive officer Premesh Chandran had been charged with uploading an “offensive” video clip of a press conference held by former Batu Kawan Umno leader Datuk Khairuddin Abu Hassan titled “Khairuddin: Apandi Ali is not fit to be AG and he should quit immediately” in English and Bahasa Malaysia on their website on July 27, 2016.
According to a report by Malaysiakini, deputy public prosecutor Nazril Nizam, representing the Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission (MCMC), told the court that the charges were being withdrawn and that he was seeking a “discharge not amounting to an acquittal”.
Judge MM Edwin Paramjothy, however, agreed to acquit the duo under Section 254(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, after the defence team of Fahri Azzat and K. Shanmuga argued for a full acquittal.
The case had brought into spotlight claims of “malicious prosecution” by the then attorney-general Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.
“How could it be a crime for Malaysiakini to cover a press conference, especially when the person who made the allegedly offensive remark about the former AG was not charged?
“Clearly, the real target was Malaysiakini and this was a crude and blatant attempt to intimidate journalists from reporting about the wrongdoers and those complicit in the 1MDB scandal. I hope that such action will no longer be used against journalists in Malaysia,” Gan was quoted as saying by the news portal.
The charge they had faced, under Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA, criminalises improper use of network facilities by knowingly transmitting contents which are offensive, menacing, obscene, false and indecent with the intent to annoy, abuse or threaten another person.
Section 244(1) meanwhile, states that directors and other senior officers of a company are also liable for offences committed by the company and punishable under the same law.
If convicted of offences under Section 233(1)(a), they could have been jailed a maximum of one year or fined up to RM50,000, or both. They would also face an additional fine of RM1,000 a day each if they continued the offence after conviction.
Section 244(1) of the CMA provides for the same penalties.