Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Sues News Website Over Reports

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak filed a lawsuit against news website Malaysiakini for defamation for publishing compilations of readers comments critical of his leadership.

The writ of summons named publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn., Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan and Chief Editor Fathi Aris Omar as defendants, according to court documents e-mailed from the Prime Minister’s Office. Ab. Rauf Yusoh, executive secretary of Najib’s United Malays National Organisation party, is a co-claimant in the lawsuit.

Najib, who said last week a more open media environment is needed for national development, joins Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in taking legal action over comments made online. Lee is suing a blogger for defamation over an article last month, and the nation requires websites that regularly publish news on Singapore to be licensed.

“We’re going to fight this lawsuit the best way we can,” Gan said in a phone interview. “We’ll defend this lawsuit vigorously.”

The Malaysian prime minister said May 26 that it was his legal team’s opinion that “recent allegations by an online news portal overstepped the line” and they issued a legal notice which he emphasized was not part of a wider agenda.

“It is not part of any crackdown; it is not an attempt to silence critical voices,” Najib said at a national press club event, according to an e-mailed statement. “It is a matter of acting on specific accusations which cross the line from fair comment into slander.”

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