Easy to say ‘Dont’ sue’ when the shit’s not on your head!

Posted on October 14, 2008

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I’ve read Rocky’s post ‘In defence of Utusan Malaysia’, some of the many comments to the same, the offending article that appeared in Utusan, Teresa’s statement of claim againt Utusan and the posting in the UMNO Cheras website relating to the ‘Tabung Azan’ initiative launched by UMNO Cheras, announced by Senator Syed Ali Alhabshee and, it would seem, now supported by Rocky.

I noted two things from my reading of the offending article, which was published on 10th September.

First, it touches on two issues involving a DAP MP  : the azan controversy and the road signages in Jawi language controversy. Teresa’s suit appears to only relate to the first.

Second, the author narrates in his writing that before publishing the article, he had called and checked with several people on the azan issue. He, however, does not narrate that he checked or attempted to check with one very important person.

The DAP MP involved.

On the face of the offending article, at least, it would seem that the same was published without affording the DAP MP ‘the right of reply’ that Rocky speaks of.

Some caselaw would categorise this sought of reporting as reckless.

This recklessness has, in law, been taken to be a specie of malicious reporting.

On 12th September, Teresa was detained under the ISA.

A Malaysiakini report the following day, 13th September, quoted Syed Hamid Albar saying the following of and concerning Teresa’s detention under the ISA.

“The bottom line is tension. Teresa Kok is the same. She started a very sensitive issue with the question of the azan and it should be stopped,”

The same day, another Malaysiakini report had it that one Abdul Rahman Nasir, head of the Bandar Kinrara mosque committee, the mosque involved in the azan controversy, confirmed that Teresa was not involved in the petition submitted to the mosque committee. The group involved in presenting the petition to the mosque committee confirmed that the petition did not relate to the azan but to ceramahs. The petition, reproduced below, will confirm that indeed it does not relate to the matter of the azan.

Malaysiakini also reports that on 15th September whilst still under ISA detention and through her lawyers, Teresa demanded that Utusan Malaysia for ‘accusing her of instigating the azan controversy’.

Rocky notes in his post that Karpal has also sued Utusan, despite the latter having issued an apology for ‘a mistake it did in a report affecting the politician’.

Yet, Rocky overlooked to note in his post that to-date Utusan has not issued any apology to Teresa.

In the early hours of 27th September, two molotov cocktails were thrown into the compound of the family home of Teresa in Jalan Ipoh, KL. A vulgar and malicious note was attached to one. The note is reproduced below.

Concerning this, Malaysiakini quotes Teresa as follows :

“I also attribute this despicable act to certain media groups and blogs that have deliberately demonised and portrayed me as chauvinistic, anti-Malay and anti-Islam”

Rocky’s post makes no mention of this most terrifying ordeal that Teresa’s family were put through.

Let’s be very clear about what Teresa’s court action is all about.

Teresa’s claim against Utusan and the author, in relation to the offending article, is in defamation. Implicitly, Teresa’s contention is that the ‘azan’ allegations against her published by Utusan are untrue.

The statements by the residents involved in the petition and the mosque committee head would appear to back her contention.

In her statement of claim she alleges that the offending article bear the following (taken verbatim from her blog) meanings of and concerning herself :

1. Plaintif ialah seorang bersifat perkauman;

2. Plaintif ialah seorang pentaksub agama dan kaum;

3. Plaintif ialah seorang yang tidak boleh dipercayai dan seorang ahli politik yang tidak boleh dipercayai dan jahat;

4. Plaintif ialah seorang yang tidak bertoleransi dan tidak berprinsip;

5. Plaintif ialah seorang ahli politik cauvinis yang anti-Islam dan anti-Melayu; dan

6. Plaintif telah melakukan kesalahan jenayah yang boleh dihukum dengan penjara.

Rocky says in his post that he hopes ‘Theresa would find it fit to withdraw her suit against Utusan Malaysia’.

Well, Rocky, if one of the Tamil dailies falsely accused you of calling for  the demolition of Hindu temples,  and that daily then refused to apologise despite your demands that they do so, and your home was then turned into a war zone where molotovs were tossed into, would you sue to clear your name and to prevent any further trauma for those near and dear to you?

Or would you, Rocky, champion the right of that daily, in the name of freedom of expression and opinion, to continue to lie about you, and therefore refrain from taking the matter to court?

Rocky also says in his post that he ‘must applaud Syed Ali Alhabshee’s initiative over the weekend to come to the defence of Utusan Malaysia’. Some will see it as a political gimmick, but I see the Umno Cheras’ inititiave for its simple message: if we believe in a freedom, we must defend that freedom at all times’.

Now, if the tabung is to defend Utusan, why call it ‘Tabung Azan’? Why not ‘Tabung Membela Utusan Malaysia’?

The senator’s statement in the course of announcing this initiative, which was carried on the UMNO Cheras website with an explanatory statment, both of which I now reproduce below, is most telling.

The senator’s statement : “Apabila pemimpin DAP itu menyaman akhbar Utusan Malaysia hanya kerana isu laungan azan, maka tindakan Teresa itu seolah-olah mencabar dan menghiris seluruh perasaan umat Islam di negara ini,”

The explanatory statement : Beliau menjelaskan, akhbar Utusan Malaysia adalah milik orang Melayu dan sinonim dengan perjuangan UMNO, maka tindakan Teresa itu samalah seperti menggugat kepentingan seluruh umat Islam….UMNO Bahagian Cheras amat prihatin dengan peranan akhbar berkenaan dan setelah isu laungan azan didedahkan, maka ianya telah membuka mata kita semua betapa kesucian agama Islam sedang berhadapan dengan ancaman yang semakin serius’.

Turn a simple ‘newspaper lied’ defamation suit into a ‘bukan Islam mencabar Islam’ action, is it?

Is that the gameplan?

In fairness, though, I must note here that there is a further statement in the UMNO Cheras website that explains a further use that the funds collected will be put to.

Katanya, kutipan daripada tabung tersebut akan disalurkan kepada masjid-masjid dan surau untuk melengkapkan pelbagai kemudahan, seperti membeli peralatan pembesar suara untuk laungan azan dan menganjurkan kursus-kursus muaazim kepada golongan remaja.

“Kita mahu melahirkan seramai mungkin muaazim muda yang mampu melaungkan azan dengan baik dan tertib dalam usaha kita memperjuangkan syiar Islam di negara ini,”tegasnya.

So, Rocky, please tell us which aspect of the initiative were you applauding?

Finally, Rocky says in his post that One can argue that ordinary people and organisations sue newspapers all the time. But Ms Kok is not an ordinary person and the DAP is not an ordinary body. As a people’s representative, we expect Ms Kok to fight for our basic freedoms, including assuring Malaysians of the all-important Press Freedom. If Ms Kok and the DAP really believe in the freedom of, say, the Rocket and Malaysia Today, they must also believe in the freedom of Utusan Malaysia’.

Rocky seems to have overlooked many things in this post.

Like, there is no press freedom in this country at the present.

The UMNO-led BN refuses to allow press freedom in this country.

Have you forgotten, Rocky?

Ms Kok and DAP have been harping on the absence of press freedom in this country for a long, long time!

In fact, Rocky seems to have overlooked that DAP and Ms Kok have been clamouring to free Utusan Malaysia so that Malaysians might hope to see honest, unbiased reporting from this paper.

Rocky’s post, read in toto, leaves one with the impression that he has turned the whole notion of freedom of the press on its head.

Well, in his head, at least!

Posted in: Digressions