SOURCE: AFP/Malaysiakini


A defamation suit against blogger Ahirudin Attan by a leading newspaper is impossible to defend, lawyers said today as they attempted to have the controversial legal action struck out.

The suit against Ahirudin Attan by the government-linked New Straits Times Press (NTSP) has triggered criticism from watchdogs who say it will stifle free expression in Malaysia, where the media is tightly controlled.

Ahirudin, who writes the Rocky’s Bru blog, is being sued along with another well-known blogger, Jeff Ooi of Screenshots, for a series of items published on their sites last year.

“What Rocky is contending is that with the claim the way it is, it is impossible to know how to adequately defend himself,” his lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur civil High Court.

“What we are arguing is that the claim must specifically set out which phrase relates to which meaning so that we can know how to defend it,” he said.

It other words, the plaintiff’s statement of claim is “fatally deficient“, as Rocky said in his application.

Ahirudin, a former executive editor of the Malay Mail, a newspaper within the NSTP stable, until he left in 2006, said the blog was set up to share his views, with no “negative agenda.”

“I think the blog offers me a channel to say general things and when you write something, you start with something you know… and that’s what I have been doing,” he told reporters.

“After a while it became a watchdog for the media.”

A small protest took place outside the court, with a group of 10 people waving banners which read, “Say NO to NST, say YES to press freedom.”

The court set a date of Feb 22 to hear the application to strike out the suit. Ooi’s strike-out application will be heard on Jan 30.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday defended the legal action against the two bloggers, saying that the Internet could not be used to hide from defamation laws.

SOURCE: Malaysiakini

Blogger urged to remove readers’ comments
Soon Li Tsin
Jan 25, 07 2:08pm

Lawyers representing New Straits Times Press (NSTP) today raised concerns over comments left in Ahirudin Attan’s blog, citing sub judice rules.

Ahirudin’s lawyer Edmund Bon told the press that the plantiffs – NSTP and four others – wanted comments discussing the merits of the case to be removed as they risked prejudicing the case.

“We were only told about it this morning that they want such comments removed so we will look into these comments and give the plaintiffs an answer on Monday.

“We will decide whether it is indeed sub judice […] we have not taken a position yet whether we want to leave the comments in the site or remove it,” he told reporters in Wisma Denmark, Kuala Lumpur today.

He stressed the comments were not related to what Ahirudin had written but what his commentators have been saying.

In the event Ahiruddin decides to contest the request by the plaintiffs, the court will then fix a date on Monday to hear the legal arguments.

Ahirudin, who runs Rocky’s Bru, is being sued by NSTP, its deputy chairperson Kalimullah Hassan, chief executive officer Syed Faisal Albar, group editor-in-chief Hishamudin Aun and former group editor Brendan Pereira for defamation

Today’s hearing was to have heard an application by the plaintiffs to stop Ahirudin from further defaming them and to remove 48 posts deemed defamatory to them.

Striking out application

However, Ahirudin, through his lawyer Bon, filed an application to strike out the defamation suit on grounds including:

• the suit filed did not state clearly which alleged defamatory posts refers to which of the plaintiffs

• the defendant would have trouble defending himself because of such unclear pleadings

• the defendant is placed in a position where he does not know what case he is facing

• some paragraphs refer to posting which are not part of the 48 postings that plaintiffs want removed

• the process of discovery of the trial is akin to a ‘fishing expedition’- the pleadings must first be concrete instead of being revealed during trial

This morning, justice Hishamuddin Yunus decided in his chambers, after 45 minutes of deliberation, to hear the striking out application first before hearing the injunction filed against Ahirudin. It will be heard on Feb 22.

Should the striking out application is successful, the defamation suit against Ahirudin will be dropped.

Appearing for Ahirudin were Bon, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Haris Ibrahim. Lawyers Cecil Abraham, Sunil Abraham and Rishwant Singh appeared for the plaintiffs.

Supporters in court

More than 20 supporters were present outside the courtroom including blogger Jeff Ooi who is similarly sued by NSTP for defamation.

Ahirudin and Ooi revealed last Thursday that they were being sued for defamation by NSTP.

NSTP has already obtained an interim injunction ordering Ooi to remove the 13 alleged defamatory postings on his blog. However a proper application is due to be heard on Jan 30.

The plantiffs have also applied to the court today to remove comments pertaining to their defamation suit which appeared in Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Malaysia Today blog.