Thursday, June 18, 2009

Defence of Qualified Privilege,once banished, returns to Malaysian courts

In the defamation matter of Tan Kok Ping v New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd, Mr. Justice Ghazali Cha of the High Court in Malaysia has ruled that the New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd, its former group editor-in-chief Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad and former reporter V. Ramanan, who are the defendants in the suit, were entitled to succeed on the defence of qualified privilege and therefore “the impugned articles were immune from the suit”.

Ghazali Cah also said the two articles which were subject of the action had merely given account of police investigations into an alleged forged letter and did not convey the meaning that Tan, 62, was guilty of forgery or had been a party to the forging of the letter.

“I do not agree that a reader would be overtly presumptuous and infer guilt on the plaintiff, but merely take the article to mean there was an ongoing police investigations.

“The articles merely intended to show as a result of a police report lodged, Tan as the Magnum Corporation Bhd executive chairman had been called in for questioning,” he said.

Tan had sued the defendants claiming they had falsely and maliciously printed and published, or caused to be printed and published, certain defamatory words in two articles in the New Straits Times and in the Malay Mail on April 5, 2002 which was accompanied by his photograph.

Previously, Malaysia's courts in hearing defamation matters had all but banished the defence of qualified privilege, particularly in matters that involved Tan Kok Ping's business associate, Tan Sri Dato Seri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun.