Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan leaves the Federal Court in Putrajaya, Malaysia, after the outlet was convicted of contempt and fined, on February 19, 2021. (Reuters/Lim Huey Teng)

CPJ condemns Malaysian court conviction, fine of Malaysiakini on contempt charges

Bangkok, February 19, 2021 – In response to a Malaysian court ruling today fining the Malaysiakini news website 500,000 ringgit (US$123,672), the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Today’s contempt of court ruling holding Malaysiakini responsible for readers’ comments is a de facto attack on the press and sets a worrying precedent for all media outlets in Malaysia,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “This wrongheaded verdict will inevitably lead to more self-censorship and less press freedom in Malaysia.”

The Malaysia Federal Court ruled that Malaysiakini was in contempt of court due to readers’ comments posted on its platform that were critical of the judiciary, and in a six-to-one judgement, imposed the fine, which was more than twice the amount that government prosecutors had sought, according to news reports.  The court did not convict editor-in-chief Steven Gan, who had also been charged with contempt, according to those reports. Gan was awarded CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2000.

The news outlet likely cannot appeal the verdict, because it came from the country’s highest court, those reports said.