KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has dismissed an application by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for a gag order on the media to prevent it from discussing the merits of his criminal case.
Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said a gag order would be an extension of the existing contempt and defamation law.
“Those who overstep in their reporting risk action being taken such as contempt of court and these remedies are readily available.
“I find the application unsustainable. I dismiss this notice of motion,” he said.
Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah submitted that the media furore surrounding his client’s alleged criminal wrongdoing and the resulting public backlash had presupposed his client’s guilt.
“It is not a dramatic observation to say that the public sentiment against the applicant is prejudiced to such an extent that nothing short of a conviction upon all charges would qualify as justice in the eyes of the public,” he told the court yesterday, adding the prosecution was a result of political will made manifest.
Muhammad Shafee claimed the present administration – namely Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Lim Guan Eng and Tony Pua – had weighed in on the case and continually supported the public’s call for blood.
Dr Mahathir is the Prime Minister and Lim is the Finance Minister. Pua, meanwhile, is a special officer to the Finance Minister.
In his reply, DPP Datuk Mohd Hanafiah Zakaria said the applicant should apply for a gag order against the individuals instead.
“They can take the gag order against them (Mahathir, Lim and Pua) and not against the party at large as it is hard to enforce against the newspapers, against the public,” he said.
Mohd Hanafiah also said public comments were within the rights of public speech and unsatisfactory comments should be ignored.
The defence will be filing a notice of appeal against the High Court’s dismissal on Monday.
The court also fixed Feb 12 to Feb 28 and March 4 to March 29 next year for the trial.
On July 4, High Court judge Justice Mohd Sofian Abd Razak, who earlier presided the case, granted an interim gag order.
Muhammad Shafee made the request claiming that Najib had been facing a trial by media since he stepped down as prime minister.
Najib has been been slapped with seven criminal charges.