PETALING JAYA: A hundred tweets over three days in exchange for staying out of court. That's the price social activist Fahmi Fadzil has to pay for defaming magazine publisher BluInc Media Sdn Bhd in January.
In a possibly unprecedented move in Twitter history, Fahmi had agreed to tweet: “I've defamed Blu Inc Media & Female magazine. My tweets on their HR policies are untrue. I retract those words & hereby apologise.”
He reached this agreement with BluInc Media after he was slapped with a letter of demand in March accusing him of defaming the company and its publication, Female magazine, in a series of tweets on Jan 25.
Fahmi, who has over 4,000 Twitter followers, had tweeted that his pregnant friend had tendered her resignation as a result of poor treatment by her employer at Female magazine.
Fahmi, who is also PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar's political secretary, had tweeted an apology on the same day saying: “I would like to formally & unequivocally apologise to Blu Inc and Female mag for my tweets earlier today. All inconveniences are regretted.”
When contacted, Fahmi said he felt he was being accountable for his actions and that his followers were extremely supportive and had even offered to help him tweet his apology.
“I don't feel embarrassed. I believe I have to be responsible for the things I say and do,” he said, adding that he had set a schedule to send the tweets out every 35 minutes from his account.
His lawyer Syahredzan Johan said BluInc Media's lawyers had sent a letter demanding unspecified financial damages for defamation and an apology in newspapers.
He said he believed this was the first time a certain number of tweets over a period of time had been used to reach such a settlement.
“If nothing, this tells us we should be aware of the repercussions of our words. Twitter doesn't exist in a vacuum, laws extend to it as well,” he said.
International news wire Associated Press meanwhile picked up on the interesting case and published an article on how the penalty had “sparked debate” amongst Malaysian Internet users following warning from the authorities for the public to be cautious about what they write on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
The first person to be sued for defamation over Twitter postings in Malaysia was theSun columnist R. Nadeswaran.
He was sued by property developer Datuk Salim Fateh Din for RM15mil on March 1 over postings in which Nadeswaran was alleged to have cast aspersions on the Gapurna CEO's bumiputra status.
Nadeswaran, who writes the Citizen Nades column, is currently in London as theSun's UK correspondent.