The Malaysian court docket despises the information portal for the feedback made by Reuters readers

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© Reuters. Malaysiakini Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan arrives at Putrajaya Federal Court

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By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s highest court scorned news portal Malaysiakini on Friday for comments from readers who were deemed offensive to the judiciary. This is widely viewed as a test of media freedom in the Southeast Asian nation.

Last year, Malaysia’s attorney general filed a motion to cite Malaysiakini and editor-in-chief Steven Gan for disregarding the court over five comments posted by readers on its website that undermine public confidence in the judiciary.

In a six-to-one ruling on Friday, a panel of the federal court ruled that Malaysiakini was fully responsible for its website, including all information published.

However, the panel found Gan not guilty. Malaysiakini is unlikely to be able to appeal the ruling as the case has been tried in the country’s highest court.

Malaysiakini and Gan have claimed they could not be held responsible and the offensive comments were removed immediately after being contacted by police.

Gan and Malaysiakini’s legal team could not be reached immediately for comment on Friday as the court was still in session and a verdict was announced.

In January, Gan said reporters should not “give up” on what he called “harassment” by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government.

He said that in the two decades since Malaysiakini was founded, its journalists have been labeled traitors, exposed to debilitating cyber-attacks, excluded from press conferences, arrested and ambushed by police.

Malaysia has moved up the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders in recent years. However, rights groups have stated that freedom of expression and freedom of the press came under renewed pressure after an unexpected move to a Muhyiddin government in March last year.

The government had denied restricting media freedom.

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