Doula allowed to initiate contempt of court proceedings

KUALA LUMPUR: The Johor Baru High Court has granted leave to initiate a contempt of court proceedings against a medical doctor who has been ordered to pay RM200,000 in damages in a defamation suit filed by a doula.

Judicial Commissioner Evrol Mariette Peters made the decision after hearing the ex-parte application by Masyitah Md Hassan, who is a pregnancy and birthing assistant or better known as a doula, via Skype yesterday. The court also granted RM5,000 in costs.

Lawyer Nur Izzaida Zamani, who represented Masyitah, 33, said her client filed the application as Dr Sakinah Sulong, 44, has failed to adhere to a court order dated Oct 26.

The court order stated that Dr Sakinah must publish a public apology on her Facebook page for six consecutive months within seven days of the court order.

“The deadline for the defendant was Nov 2, ” Nur Izzaida said.

The court also allowed Masyitah to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Prof Dr Imelda Balchin Nasruddin. Dr Imelda is a specialist doctor who has her own TV show Tanya Dr Imelda.

According to a court order sighted by The Star, Dr Imelda was named a contemnor over two comments she made on Facebook about Dr Sakinah’s case and the court decision.

“All papers with regard to the contempt proceedings will be served to all parties accordingly, ” said Nur Izzaida.

On Oct 26, the same High Court allowed Masyitah’s defamation suit and ordered Dr Sakinah to publish an unconditional apology.

It made an order of injunction for the defendant to stop publishing the defamatory statements involving the death of a baby in Johor Baru on Feb 4,2018.

Dr Sakinah was ordered to pay RM100,000 in general damages, RM100,000 in exemplary, aggravated and punitive damages and 4% interest a year on the amount from the date of the court order until full settlement.

The court also granted RM30,000 in costs to be paid to the plaintiff.

Masyitah filed the suit through Messrs CK Ling Izzaida & Irna on Aug 10,2018.

In her statement of claim, Masyitah said the defendant had maliciously uploaded, broadcast and published posts on Facebook on Feb 7,8 and 12,2018. Masyitah said the defamatory statements on Feb 8 were “liked” by more than 5,000 people on Facebook.

She said the defamatory statements meant to say that the plaintiff was a liar, had influenced mothers to continue with home water birth, had killed or caused the death of a baby, had committed a crime and should be punished by death sentence, untrustworthy and unethical.

As a result, she said her character and reputation was damaged by the allegations.

Masyitah, who was pregnant then, suffered depression, emotional and mental stress and postpartum depression after giving birth.

Masyitah said the mother who lost the baby was her friend and not a client.

On Feb 4,2018, Masyitah said she visited her friend and around 7.50pm, the friend went into labour and she told the husband to call for an ambulance.

She said she had gone to the hospital together and had never influenced her friend to continue home water birth.

In her statement of defence, Dr Sakinah said her Facebook posts were an expression of opinion, factual commentary and reasonable comment based on public interest.

Dr Sakinah claimed on Feb 6,2018, she was told that a baby had died due to breathing difficulties.

Based on clinic records, Dr Sakinah said the mother attended antenatal class by a doula who did not have any medical or nursing licence.

Dr Sakinah said she had a moral obligation to spread information and awareness to the public on the danger and risks of home birth.

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