KUALA LUMPUR, April 12- The High Court today dismissed a RM50-million defamation suit brought by former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin against TV3 over his tweets on the WWW 1 vehicle registration number successfully bid by the Sultan of Johor.
Justice Datin Yeoh Wee Siam said Mohammad Nizar’s tweet messages had clearly insinuated that the Sultan of Johor had used public funds to secure the WWW 1 vehicle registration number in the bid. She said the court was unable to agree with Mohammad Nizar’s suggestion that his tweets must be construed literally and entirely divorced from any inferences, implications and the normal understanding of a reasonable man.
“Based on the above considerations, the court dismisses the plaintiff’s action against the defendants. Costs are to be borne by the respective parties,” she said. Mohammad Nizar had brought the suit against TV3 and the producer of Buletin Utama, Rohani Ngah, over his comments on the vehicle registration number, which was bid successfully for RM520,000 by the Sultan of Johor in May last year.
“The court agrees with the defendants’ submission that the plaintiff’s tweet messages, read and understood by any reasonable man, clearly insinuate that the Sultan of Johor had used public funds for the WWW 1 bid,” she said.
The judge also held that that would be artificial and unreal considering that Mohammad Nizar’s tweet messages created intense interest among members of the public. Justice Yeoh pointed out that it was true as submitted by the defendants’ counsel that if the Sultan of Johor was using his own money to bid for WWW 1, it was his own personal right.
“It is his own money. There is no question of using that money to help the public. It is only possible to criticise the sultan for his bid if he had used public funds,” she said in her 30-page judgement.
The judge said, therefore, that any reasonable man would conclude that Mohammad Nizar’s tweets were indirectly hinting at or alleging that the sultan had used public funds to make the bid for the registration number. She said it was clear that the news report was of public interest and the defendants had a duty to publish the news of the plaintiff’s tweet messages.
Justice Yeoh said the timing of the publication was perfect as it was at the right time when the topic was hot and the public were all ears to hear the news and the defendants were clearly discharging their responsibility to disseminate
the news in a timely manner. She said, however, that the defendants had failed to practise responsible journalism by not verifying with Mohammad Nizar on his tweets, and such failure was mitigated by the absence of malice on the defendants’ part.
“Therefore, the court is more inclined towards allowing the defendants to be relieved from any liability for defamation of the plaintiff,” said the judge. She said the court found that the defence of fair comment on a matter of public interest had been clearly made out by the defendants.
After the verdict, Mohammad Nizar told reporters he would discuss with his counsel and would have to go through the judgement before deciding whether to appeal. Counsel Mohd Fitri Asmuni and Mohd Zamri Ibrahim represented Mohammad Nizar while Liew Teck Huat, Lim Qi Si and Wee Jason acted for the defendants.