KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian High Court on Monday (May 14) ordered a local TV station to pay a total of RM1.1 million (US$278,000) in damages to Anwar Ibrahim after finding that it had defamed him in a news report linking him as one of the masterminds in the Lahad Datu intrusion in Sabah, five years ago.
Judge Ahmad Zaidi Ibrahim, in allowing Anwar’s suit, said TV3 had failed to practise responsible journalism when it did not seek verification on the authenticity of the news before airing it in its Buletin Utama news programme on Mar 2, 2013.
The court also found that there was malice on TV3’s part for broadcasting the news, which was purely based on a report by Utusan Melayu Berhad.
Ahmad Zaidi said despite Utusan admitting that its report was false and had no basis, TV3’s CEO was still adamant not to settle the suit.
Lahad Datu, a town in Sabah, was invaded in February 2013 by a group of Filipino rebels who wanted to reclaim parts of Borneo as their ancestral land. In January, the high court upheld the death sentence for the nine men convicted of their involvement in the two-month siege.
Ten Malaysian security force personnel and six civilians were killed in the standoff, along with 56 militants.
“A defendant’s (TV3) witness admitted during cross-examination (in the trial) that no efforts were made to contact the plaintiff (Anwar) for verification.
“The court also found that there is malice and based on that the court allows exemplary damages,” Ahmad Zaidi said.
The court ordered TV3 to pay general damages of RM600,000, aggravated damages of RM250,000, exemplary damages of RM250,000 and costs of RM40,000.
On Mar 8, 2013, Anwar filed a suit against Utusan Melayu; Utusan Group editor-in-chief Abdul Aziz Ishak, TV3, Media Prima Berhad Television and Radio Network, News and Current Affairs group managing editor Shaharudin Abd Latif and Buletin Utama news editor Ing Boon Seng.
Anwar, a former Permatang Pauh member of parliament, was suing them over the articles Opposition Leader Linked To Intrusion? and Three Groups Were Responsible, that were published in Utusan Malaysia on Mar 2, 2013.
He also alleged that between 8pm and 9pm on the same day, TV3, Shaharudin and Ing broadcasted the news on the Lahad Datu intrusion, based on the Utusan Malaysia newspaper reports in Buletin Utama.
On Oct 5, 2016, Anwar settled the case with Utusan Melayu and its editor-in-chief Abdul Aziz Ishak after both parties reached a compromise.