NST to apologise for ‘plot to destablise gov’t’ report

Lawrence Yong
Nov 13, 2013

It was a victory for responsible journalism in Malaysia today when mainstream daily New Straits Times (NST) had to bend to demands from four NGOs to apologise for publishing a fabricated story.

The apology was part of the conditions set by polls reform movement Bersih 2.0, human rights group Suaram, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and pollster Merdeka Centre, for dropping their defamation suit against the “oldest English newspaper in the country”.

NST’s website claims that it has been publishing since 1845.

NST also agreed to pay RM120,000 to the four parties, for reporting more than a year ago that the NGOs were plotting to overthrow the BN government.

“The damage was done at that time… I certainly hope this doesn’t become a habit for the NST to write a fabricated story and then apologise for it later,” Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan told reporters outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

“The apology is not the end of the matter. What we want to see is responsible journalism.”

NST agreed to publish an apology, in bold, on Page 3 of its issue within the next 14 days, except on a Saturday. It will also have to retract its online article and publish the same apology.

Lawyers for the plaintiff read out the full apology they are demanding before the judge. In it, NST is to admit that it made “groundless allegations” that were “false and without foundation”.

NST would acknowledge that “we had no proof whatsoever to substantiate any of the said allegations and that we did not verify the information and facts relied on with Bersih 2.0, CIJ, Suaram and Merdeka Center”.

It would retract the article, and state that “the article ought not to have been published”.

High Court judge Lee Heng Cheong agreed to let the suit be withdrawn after meeting the lawyers for both parties.

“It’s not about the money… I just want to emphasise here that what we are interested in is a suitable apology,” said lawyer Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, who appeared for Suaram.

The NST article, published on its front page on Sept 21 last year, accused Bersih and the other NGOs of plotting a conspiracy to destabilise the BN government.

In February this year, after Bersih’s plea for the retraction of the article was not entertained, the electoral reform group filed the defamation suit for an unspecified sum, naming the article author Farrah Naz Karim and New Straits Times Press Bhd as respondents.

The struggle continues

According to the NST report, Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had allegedly channelled almost RM20 million to a number of NGOs as well as Malaysiakini over a period of seven years since 2005.

The report accuses Bersih, along with several other groups such as Malaysiakini, Suaram, CIJ, Merdeka Centre and Lawyers for Liberty, of receiving foreign funding meant to “destabilise the government”.

In the wake of the settlement, the four NGOs said a “vibrant and free press that reports with integrity is key to achieving our goals for a strong democracy”.

“Anything less must be condemned to the fullest extent as a betrayal of a sacred duty to the rakyat to report fairly and objectively.

“Today, truth has prevailed over lies. It always will, ultimately. However, the fight for the truth has not ended and will not end until the changes that we are struggling for are implemented in a full and proper manner.

“All of us throughout Malaysia must continue to work to achieve these aims.”

NSTP Bhd is part of the Media Prima Group which also publishes other national newspapers such as Berita Harian and Harian Metro and also owns several radio and TV stations in the country.

Media Prima is a listed company and one of its major shareholders is the Employees Provident Fund.

  1. #1 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 8:22 am

    Well the msm are mouthpieces of umno/bn. If they wrote lies we will see the govt as lying as well. So still no votes going their way.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 8:48 am

    NOT surprising at all! Dis nation is brain washed daily by UmnoB-backed msm, pouring out lies n more lies with d blessings of UmnoB, MCA, Gerakan, MIC, Perkosa, etc
    Welcome 2 dis land, M’sia Truly @ssia (a farked up nation where lies being peddled as truth by d minority-elected gomen)

  3. #3 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 9:35 am

    Tell you what.

    No. NST will not learn anything from this lesson.

    Indeed it is not lesson to them at all.

    That is why I believe when the time comes and when directed to by umno nst will again publish lies.

    BTW, hey umno where are the Red Bean Army?

  4. #4 by Winston on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 9:48 am

    Well, well, well!
    The toilet papers are government owned and have the full support of the federal government.
    They are also not worried one jot about being sued!
    Because the government is using the taxpayers’ hard-earned money to bail them out!
    So, if anyone sues, it will be taxpayers who will end up paying for the damages!!!
    And if the till is depleted by such gross acts, they can always up the ante by passing new tax laws or reducing subsidies further.
    Piece of cake!!!

  5. #5 by Loh on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 10:39 am

    Najib allowed the government to spend 7.2 billion hiring consultants during the five years he was PM. How much did Abdullah Ahmad Badawi spent during his five years?

    Najib should provide the breakdown of expenditure, and most importantly how much were spent hiring consultants by his PM department.

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 11:16 am

    So what did NST really lose? They did their damage at the time and ‘apologising’ now doesn’t really matter to them. Their masters were really pleased and the culprits amply rewarded. No ‘punishment’ for them really, what’s a little ‘apology’ to them? Malaysians got very short memories.

    They did not pay any damages or will there be any injunction made against them, so the culprits will live to lie for many other days. They are all laughing out loud and thinking of what new spins to come out with.

    The NGOs should have asked for punitive and exemplary damages and criminal defamation for the fabrications by the persons and newspaper concerned. Is NST chastised, restrained and concerned with this ‘apology’. Naaah !

  7. #7 by tak tahan on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 12:12 pm

    What is mere apology to NST means ayoh ? Suaram can’t be so naïve to believe a leopard can change it’s spot overnight,sigh.Take them to court to face the music,an apology now is too late too little.Damage has been done and more will come for sure as and when the order from the master Bumno is out to get PR,opposition NGOs and activist groups.

  8. #8 by Cinapek on Thursday, 14 November 2013 - 1:53 pm

    “The damage was done at that time… I certainly hope this doesn’t become a habit for the NST to write a fabricated story and then apologise for it later,” Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan told reporters outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court.”

    Ambiga, you said it yourself. NST, like Utusan, has the same DNA and will make it a habit to write fabricated stories especially during elections to demonise NGOs opposing the BN Govt or the Opposition. After the damage is done they will just apologise and pay the compensation. And if the paper fails, UMNO will pump in more money just like in Utusan now.

  9. #9 by Noble House on Friday, 15 November 2013 - 4:20 am

    The world always needs a clown and some people have no taste at all and any clown will do. Perhaps, they have so little going on in their jobs, they would rather discuss others.

    Good try, Farrah Naz Karim and NST!

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Friday, 15 November 2013 - 8:21 pm

    SMEAR with sh!t n lies first, then print a tiny apology notice – d HARM oredi done lor, worth it what

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