Utusan to pay RM50,000 to Karpal Singh over defamatory article

(The Star) – DAP national chairman Karpal Singh won RM50,000 in damages over a defamatory article published in Utusan Malaysia.

Judicial Commissioner Justice Nik Hasmat Nik Mohamad ruled that the article published on Aug 25, 2008 was defamatory of Karpal.

“It is reasonable for the court to conclude that the words are defamatory of the plaintiff and clearly relates to him,” she said on Friday.

Justice Nik Hasmat awarded RM50,000 in general damages saying that it was sufficient to compensate Karpal.

She disallowed exemplary and aggravated damages.

She said the reckless publication in the mainstream media on the eve of the Permatang Pauh by-election was mischievous.

She said the court, however, considered that there was no economic loss to Karpal as the Pakatan Rakyat coalition went on to win the by-election despite the publication of the said article.

Justice Nik Hasmat said the publication could lead to a certain degree of public ridicule and contempt against Karpal in view of the publication in Malaysia which is a Muslim populated nation.

She said it should not be “reckless journalism” with no regard to the truth, adding that journalist Zulkifli Jalil had written the article entitled “DAP diingat jangan bakar perasan orang Melayu” without verify the truth of its content.

In his RM10mil suit filed in 2008, Karpal, who is Bukit Gelugor MP, said the article had implied that he rejected Islam as the official religion of the country.

Justice Nik Hasmat said that the court considered that there was a genuine apology and retraction on the next day of the publication.

“The defendant unqualified and unconditionally made the apology and retraction. The defendant in their defence have said that it was a mistake,” she said.

Zulkifli, 42, had testified that it was his honest mistake for implying that Karpal rejected Islam as an official religion of the country.

In the statement of claim, Karpal said the words in the article were highly malicious as he had not uttered such words in his welcoming address at the 15th DAP national congress on Aug 24, 2008.