KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is suing the owner of a news portal over an alleged defamatory article, said the defence of responsible journalism is unsustainable.
He said it is “totally untrue and unfounded” for Izwan Mohd Zubit’s Agenda Daily Media Enterprise (Agenda Daily) to state that he “begged” for support to remain in power.
Ismail said he never uttered the word nor “begged” for support from any political parties during a speech at the Bera district council convention centre on Jan 29.
“The defendant failed to contact me to verify the statement. Instead, (he) published the article which is defamatory,” he said in his reply to Izwan’ defence filed last month.
Ismail said he also rejected the defence of “justification” and “fair comment”.
“The defence of justification and fair comment is not applicable as the statement is false and baseless,” he said.
He filed the suit on Feb 17 after Agenda Daily published its article titled “Ismail Sabri bimbang jadi PM paling singkat, ‘rayu’ jangan tarik sokongan” (Ismail Sabri concerned about being the PM with the shortest tenure, begs not to pull out support).
Izwan said the news portal had practised responsible journalism, the article was not published with malicious intent, and the subject matter was of public interest.
Ismail also said the word “rayu” in the article, and read in its entirety, conveyed a negative connotation.
In his earlier statement of claim, he said the posting, in its ordinary meaning and by inference, implied that he was concerned about ending up as the prime minister with the shortest tenure in Malaysian history.
He said it was also implied that he was desperate to hold on to the position at any cost and was willing to “beg” a certain political party not to withdraw support for him.
The posting also gave the impression that he was concerned only about his position and did not care for the people, he said.
He is seeking a permanent injunction, damages and an apology to be published in Agenda Daily and two newspapers.
The High Court has fixed case management on April 21.
Lawyer Joshua Tan, representing Ismail, said the court will hear on April 27 whether to grant an injunction to restrain Agenda Daily from publishing or repeating the allegation pending the outcome of the trial.
Ismail obtained an ad interim injunction on March 4 and this will remain in force pending the outcome of the injunction application.