Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Sues News Website Over Reports
Firstly, let's help Bloomberg establish a fact: Najib Razak is not suing a blogger, he is suing the largest news portal in the country which happens to be Opposition-friendly. The only Malaysian Prime Minister who has sued bloggers is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2007, and even that by proxy. It is more accurate to report that Lee Hsien Loong's lawsuit against the Singapore blogger follows the example set by Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is known for million-dollar suits against Umno-friendly Utusan Malaysia and sex bloggers.
Secondly, I'm not jumping with joy over Najib's lawsuit against Malaysiakini but I must admit that taking matters to Court is better than using KDN to raid your home/office and seize your computers or stop you from publishing or, as the pracrice is in Lim Guan Eng's Penang, stop media not aligned to your party and views from attending your official functions.
Thirdly, having said that, you won't catch me crying if Malaysiakini or any other portal gets punished for its lack of journalistic regard for citizens. Steven Gan's excuse that Malaysiakini had offered Najib the right to reply is not relevant all the time. The right of reply is useful only against reason or a legitimate news story. However, against trash, slander and gutter politics disguised as "online comments" by Anonymous Inc and possibly aimed at inflicting maximum damage, the customary right of reply is quite useless. By the time the reply makes it online, the damage would have been done (and imagine the comments that will be generate to further taunt the poor offended party).
In the past, politically-biased news portals have gotten away lightly, Najib's lawsuit signal an end to that good times. It will cost is: Malaysia's press freedom is already at its worst, according Reporters Without Borders, and the lawsuit will pull it down further.
But then again do we really want to emulate Brunei and Timur Leste as the two most "press free" nations in the region according to Without Borders?