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Malaysiakini has been fined RM500,000 for contempt of court in relation to the news portal's readers' comments.

The Federal Court handed down the sentence during proceedings today.

This after an earlier request by the Attorney-General’s Chambers seeking a RM200,000 fine for the contempt charge.

Earlier, in a 6-1 majority decision, the bench found Malaysiakini liable for contempt of court over its readers’ comments.

The majority verdict also ruled that the news portal's editor-in-chief Steven Gan was not guilty of the same charge.

The seven-person bench chaired by Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf delivered the 6-1 majority decision with the dissenting judgment by Federal Court judge P Nallini.

This is the first time Malaysiakini is being cited for contempt of court in its 21-year history.

On June 15 last year, Attorney-General Idrus Harun filed the committal application against the news portal.

In delivering the decision today, Rohana ruled that the court needed to take into account its public duty to weigh the seriousness of the contempt act which ultimately undermined the system of justice in Malaysia.

She said that the apex court had also taken note of the apology extended by Malaysiakini through its CEO Premesh Chandran, to the court.

She added that the panel has also taken into account the fact that the news portal has given its cooperation to the police and court in relation to the case.

“It is also the public duty to take the seriousness of contempt act which ultimately undermine the system of justice in the country (Malaysia).

"The impugned statement (comments) has gone far and wide locally and internationally and the content is spurious and reprehensible in nature, containing the allegation of corruption.

"We are of the view that a fine of RM500,000 is appropriate.

"We order the fine by the first respondent to be paid within three days from Monday (next week)," Rohana said.

Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan

'A body blow in fight against corruption'

Responding to the decision, Gan said Malaysiakini was very disappointed with the decision.

"The decision flies in the face of the fast-changing new media landscape in this country.

"It will have a tremendous chilling impact on discussions of issues of public interest and it delivers a body blow to our continual campaign to fight corruption, among others," he said.

Gan referenced the offending comments which appeared in an article dated June 9 last year titled “CJ orders all courts to be fully operational from July 1”.

"A few months ago, the chief justice said the judiciary shouldn't be blamed for the dropping of charges because the public prosecutor was the one responsible for the dropping of any charges.

"Fair enough that a lot of Malaysians were very upset and concerned over the dropping of charges (against key personalities) and some of our readers may have gone overboard in criticising the decision and attacking the wrong target," he said.

Gan added that in an environment where everyone has a megaphone through a vibrant social media, it was important for the media to explain, educate and illuminate.

"I think the decision made against us and the hefty fine that has been put against us is perhaps an attempt to not only punish us but shut us down.

"I am terribly disappointed. What crime has Malaysiakini committed that we are forced to pay RM500,000 when there are individuals charged with abuse of power for millions and billions who are walking free?" he said.

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