Court dismisses M'sian blogger's plea

Malaysian blogger Ahirudin Attan fails to get the court to strike out an amended defamation suit against him by New Straits Times Press.
Written by Lee Min Keong, Contributor

KUALA LUMPUR--The Kuala Lumpur High Court has dismissed with costs an application by blogger Ahirudin Attan to strike out an amended defamation suit filed against him by one of Malaysia's most powerful media groups.

Senior Assistant Registrar Siti Aishah Abdul Rashid made the decision in chambers on Monday, after scrutinizing Ahirudin's application and submissions from both parties, said the national news agency Bernama.

Popularly known as Rocky, Ahirudin immediately responded in his blog that he would appeal the decision. "Until then, thank you for walking with me this far… stick around, I'll be needing your support for the next stretch," he told his supporters in his blog.

In January this year, Rocky and another high-profile blogger, Jeff Ooi, were sued separately by the government-linked New Straits Times Press (NSTP) and several of its senior management over articles written on their blog sites.

On May 4, Rocky sought a court order for the suspension of all proceedings relating to the case until the disposal of his application to strike out the suit.

In his application, Rocky cited several grounds, among them that the amended suit filed by the NSTP failed to clearly state the defamation arising from the articles that appeared on his 'Rocky's Bru' Weblog. Launched in May 2006, the blog site focuses primarily on journalism, mass media and politics.

In his supporting affidavit, Ahirudin said he filed a new application to strike out the suit as the plaintiffs had amended their statement of claim, which resulted in him withdrawing a similar application he had filed on Jan. 24.

He also said the plaintiffs' amended statement of claim was "contemptuous because of its ambiguity", hence he was unable to answer or defend the action in full.

On Jan 4, the NSTP, its deputy chairman Kalimullah Hassan, chief executive officer Syed Faisal Albar, group editor-in-chief Hishamuddin Aun, and former group editor Brendan Pereira filed the suit against Rocky over his blog postings for alleged defamation and spreading malicious falsehood. They later amended their statement of claim after Ahirudin moved to have it struck out.

Justice Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus has fixed Nov. 28 to hear the application by the plaintiffs for an inter-parte injunction to require Rocky to remove certain articles from his Weblog and restrain him from further publishing articles defamatory to them.

The colorful Rocky, 46, is no ordinary anti-establishment blogger. He was once part of the establishment, ironically, as a former bigwig in the NSTP where he was the editor of the Business Times, Malay Mail and Sunday Mail.

A former president of the National Press Club, Rocky was appointed in April 2007 as president of the National Bloggers Alliance, a newly formed group aimed at protecting the rights of Malaysian bloggers and promoting responsible blogging.

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT journalist based in Malaysia.

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