News portal Malaysiakini has been fined RM500,000 for contempt of court over readers' comments against the judiciary, in the portal last year.

The sentence was handed Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf, who led a seven-person bench at the Federal Court today. Federal Court Judge P Nallini was the only dissenting judge.

The other judges on the bench were Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, and Federal Court judges Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Abdul Rahman Sebli.

Malaysiakini's editor-in-chief Steven Gan, however, was acquitted of the same charge by the court.

In delivering the decision, judge Rohana said the court needed to take into accounts its public duty to weigh the seriousness of the contempt act, which ultimately undermined the country's justice system.

"The impugned statements (comments) has gone far and wide locally and internationally, and the content is spurious and reprehensible in nature, containing the allegation of corruption.

"We are of the view that a fine of RM500,000 is appropriate," Malaysiakini quoted her as saying.

She then ordered the portal operator Malaysiakini Dotcom Sdn Bhd to pay the amount within three days from next Monday.

It is worth noting that the RM500,000 imposed is higher than the RM200,000 fine that the prosecution had proposed.

Commenting on the verdict, Gan said Malaysiakini was "very disappointed" with the decision.

"The decision flies in the face of the fast-changing new media landscape in this country.

"It will have a tremendous chilling impact on discussions of issues of public interest and it delivers a body blow to our continual campaign to fight corruption, among others," he said.

He dubbed the hefty fine imposed against the portal as an attempt to not only punish them, but to shut the portal down.

"What crime has Malaysiakini committed that we are forced to pay RM500,000, when there are individuals charged with abuse of power for millions and billions, walking free?" Gan lamented.

Following the verdict, Malaysiakini has embarked on a crowdfunding to raise the RM500,000 needed to pay the fine.

The offensive comments appeared in an article dated June 9 last year, titled "CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1”.

Malaysiakini had immediately removed the offensive comments upon being alerted and issued an unreserved apology.

Attorney-general Idrus Harun had in June last year, initiated contempt of court proceedings against Malaysiakini and Gan over the comments.

Source: Malaysiakini
Photo source: Malaysiakini