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PAS MP Mahfuz Omar wins suit against Utusan

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 Dec 2008: PAS Member of Parliament (MP) for Pokok Sena Mahfuz Omar won his defamation suit against Untusan Melayu Berhad and was granted RM120,000 by the High Court here today as damages for libellous words published against him.

Judicial Commissioner Mohd Yazid Mustafa, in his decision, held that the words published in the article, “Demonstrasi-Mahfuz isytihar bersama Keadilan,” in Utusan Malaysia on 4 March 2001 were libellous, with the intention to lower Mahfuz’s reputation.

“The words do not fulfil the elements of fair comment, the words published are not facts, not fair comment because there is no truthful basis to it. The said words also do not serve any public interest as contended by the defendants,” he said in his written judgment.

He said the words portrayed Mahfuz as a person with a political agenda to forcefully remove the present government, “who advocates violence and force, who disbelieves in the democratic process to create change in the ruling government and who intends to cause chaos and instability to the country’s harmony”.

“The fact that the plaintiff is a volatile and vocal political figure is not relevant because the issue for determination is whether the impugned words were uttered by the plaintiff. The defendant, I find, has not only failed to establish justification for the words but has failed to show that the words were even said by the plaintiff,” he added.

In granting the RM120,000 damages, Mohd Yazid said he gave consideration to Mahfuz’s standing as a political figure, an MP and a well-known figure among his peers.

He also said the impugned words affecting Mahfuz’s political and social standing and reputation were widely published, as the newspaper had a daily circulation of 200,000 and 800,000 visitors and 7.8 million page-viewers per month for its online publication.

“To compound the matter further, the defendants have not tendered any apology to mitigate the harm to the plaintiff’s reputation,” he said.

Mahfuz, represented by counsel Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, filed the suit in 2001, naming the then group editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia and Mingguan Malaysia, Datuk Khalid Mohd, and the publisher of the daily, Utusan Melayu Berhad, as defendants.

In his statement of claim, he said that Khalid had deliberately and maliciously allowed the publication and printing of words which defamed him in Utusan Malaysia on 4 March 2001.

He claimed that the words had embarrassed him and affected his credibility in the society.

The defendants, in their statement of defence, claimed that the article was true in terms of content and fact and denied that it was defamatory.

Outside the court, Mahfuz told the reporters that he was satisfied with the decision.

“It’s not about the amount. I want to clean my image which has been damaged and smeared by the media,” he said.

Counsel M.Reza Hassan, for the defendants, said he would study the grounds of judgment before making any decision to appeal. — Bernama


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