Fine imposed on Mkini to serve public interest

by BERNAMA / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE Federal Court held that the RM500,000 fine imposed on Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, which operates news portal Malaysiakini, for contempt over readers’ comments was the appropriate sentence to serve public interest.

In the full grounds of the court’s majority decision, Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf, who chaired a seven-member panel, said the sentence would deter others from committing such a crime.

“It may deter others from the temptation to commit such a crime where the punishment is negligible, or it may deter certain criminal from repeating the same crime.

“Not only regarding each crime, but in regard to each criminal, the court always has the right and duty to decide whether to be lenient or severe,” she said in her 76-page grounds of judgement uploaded yesterday on the judiciary’s website.

Justice Rohana said the gravity of contempt committed in Mkini Dotcom’s case, which involved baseless allegations of corruption, was much more severe than in various other contempt cases which she referred to in her grounds of judgement, including the case of lawyer VK Lingam who was sentenced to six months’ jail for contempt.

Justice Rohana said the language used and the allegations made were beyond any bounds of decency, targeting the judiciary as a whole and the wild suggestion of the chief justice (CJ) being corrupt.

She said the comments, which were facilitated to be published by Mkini Dotcom, had besmirched the good name of the judiciary as a whole and had subverted the course of administration of justice, undermined public confidence, and offended the dignity, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

“Having weighed the mitigating factors as submitted by the respondents (Mkini Dotcom and Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan [picture] ) against the seriousness of the offence committed, it was only right that the sentence must not be too lenient.

“Public interest demands a deterrent sentence be meted out against the first respondent (Mkini Dotcom). We therefore hold, a fine of RM500,000 is appropriate,” she said.

On Feb 19, the Federal Court ordered Mkini Dotcom to pay a RM500,000 fine after finding the company guilty of contempt of court for facilitating the publication of five readers’ comments. The court, however, found Gan not guilty of contempt.

The court gave Mkini Dotcom three days from last Monday to settle the fine. The company paid the fine on Tuesday.

Finding Mkini Dotcom guilty of contempt was a 6-1 majority decision. Federal Court Judge Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan dissented and his 67-page minority judgment was also uploaded on the judiciary’s website.

On June 17, 2020, the Federal Court allowed the Attorney General’s (AG) ex-parte application for leave to commence committal proceedings against Mkini Dotcom and Gan in relation to the readers’ comments on an article published by Malaysiakini on June 9 entitled, “CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1”, which was deemed offensive.

On July 2, 2020, Mkini Dotcom and Gan failed to set aside the leave obtained by the AG to commence committal proceedings against them.