Guilty of defaming Umno, PAS’s Harakah escapes fine
SHAH ALAM, Aug 13 — The High Court here has held that an article regarding a raid on a church in Damansara Utama near here by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) on August 3 last year published in the 19-21 July 2011 edition of PAS organ Harakah, was defamatory and clearly referred to Selangor Umno.
Judicial Commissioner Datuk Ahmad Zaki Husin who announced the decision, however, denied the plaintiff the RM10 million damages sought in the case on the grounds that he had no locus standi to claim damages.
The plaintiff was Selangor Umno secretary Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohamed.
He had filed the defamation suit over the said article on September 14 last year and named PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali, the printer Angkatan Edaran Enterprise Sdn Bhd, Harakah editor Ahmad Lutfi Othman and reporter Khairul Azlam Mohamad as defendants.
In his judgement, Ahmad Zaki said during the hearing, the defendants had raised the issue of the plaintiff not having locus standi to file the suit.
He said that as the issue raised was one of procedure but not of law, the court was allowing it.
“It is very clear that an organisation can make a claim in the name of a public official who is appointed (for the purpose) but in this case the plaintiff does not fit the bill and as such, his claims for damages is disallowed,” he said.
Ahmad Zaki, however, said the court was satisfied that the article concerned was defamatory and clearly referred to Selangor Umno.
He said the defendants had never denied the matter, and as such, the court held that there was a prima facie case against the defendants.
“The defendants, citing they had qualified privilege to run the article as Harakah was only for PAS members, does not hold true as they themselves admitted that it was sold at public places and could be bought by non-members. The action by the defendants to call a press conference concerning the article that was also attended by non-Harakah reporters was also an attempt to widen its coverage to non-PAS members. Thus, the court rejects the defendants’ defence.
“It is unfortunate for this country when defamation is made political fodder. As the court has allowed the issue of no locus standi, it cannot order the defendants to pay costs. If this were not the case, the plaintiff might have succeeded in his claim for damages,” he said in ordering both parties to bear their own costs.
In his statement of claim, Mohd Zin said Mustafa on August 15, 2011 was interviewed by reporter Khairul Azlam where the PAS secretary-general had defamed Umno about its political struggle.
He said further to the interview, in the said edition of Harakah, Mustafa had caused or allowed the defamatory words to be printed in an article on page two of the edition carrying the heading “PAS will reveal proof that Umno had a role in the Jais raid”.
Mohd Zin had sought RM10 million in damages and an injunction to prevent the defendants from publishing any more libellous material about Selangor Umno besides other relief deemed fit by the court.
Selangor Umno’s lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun told reporters afterwards that Selangor Umno would look into the possibility of re-filing the suit. — Bernama