Tomorrow politicians, journalists and the media industry's eyes will be trained on the hearing of Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob's appeal against Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd, at the Federal Court.
The apex court will decide whether politicians can file defamation suits against the media or other individuals as public officials.
A decision on tomorrow's appeal would have serious repercussions on politicians' ongoing suits, especially Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's existing five suits against others and the media, and other politicians who had filed similar defamation actions.
In the landmark Court of Appeal decision on March 1, last year in the Adnan Yaakob case that ruled politicians as public officials cannot sue the media or others for defamation in their official capacity, resulting in the suit to be struck out.
In arriving to the decision, the Court of Aappeal adopted the decision in the English case law Derbyshire County Council vs The Times Newspapers Ltd & Others that ruled local authorities cannot sue the media.
In the unanimous decision in Adnan's case, where former solicitor-general, now Court of Appeal judge Idrus Harun wrote politicians as public officials can be criticised, as such practice is essential in democracy where the affected politicians can react to the criticisms by holding press conferences or issue statement to rebut.
Following leave granted to Adnan by the Federal Court last September, five questions of law had been posed, which among others, included whether the principles decided in the Derbyshire County Council case ought to be accepted as part of the common law in Malaysia. The case law states that local authorities could not institute libel action in their official capacity.
Another question is whether the decision in that case effectively prohibits defamation suits from being instituted by public officials in their official capacity.
The Pahang MB had sued Utusan following its article, ‘Hebat Sangatkah Adnan’ on Nov 9, 2014, where Adnan sought general, aggravated and exemplary damages, an apology and an undertaking not to repeat the publication of such defamatory material against him.
Since the decision in Adnan's case, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had also dismissed the suit by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom on his suit against National Oversight and Whistleblowers (NOW) director Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir.
The Court of Appeal last year also struck out Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's suit against New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd, on an appeal filed by NSTP.
As a result of the landmark decision in Adnan's case various politicians have began citing Adnan's case to strike out suits by politicians, namely former MCA president Dr Ling Liong Sik who is one
of those being sued by Najib.
of those being sued by Najib.
Besides this, Najib is also suing Petaling Jaya Utara MP, Tony Pua, Pandan MP, Rafizi Ramli, PAS mouthpiece Harakah and also Malaysiakini.
Adnan will be represented by lawyer Americk Sidhu, while Utusan will be represented by lawyer M Reza Hassan, who is also one of the lawyer's who appeared in Najib's suit.
It is understood the Malaysian Bar will also hold a watching brief to the case.- Mkini