Every news portal in Malaysia and probably a few international ones are buzzing with news about former prime minister Najib Razak’s arrest. It has become the most talked about topic in Malaysia as every citizen has been sharing their thoughts and comments about this momentous event on social media.
With the freedom of press and speech that came along with the new Pakatan Harapan government, anyone can say anything without fear of getting into trouble. Unless you speak against the King.
However, this could possibly give leeway for people to share false rumours or premature information that hasn’t been confirmed or made official, especially when there are updates being sent out almost every minute.
Because of this, Najib’s defence lawyer Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has requested that an interim gag order be made against the media as his client has been facing a trial by the media ever since he stepped down as Prime Minister, reported The Star.
In layman terms, a gag order restricts information so that it is not passed to any unauthorized third party, and is often used to ensure that a fair trial is carried out by preventing prejudicial pre-trial publicity.
“People have been making statements as if Najib is already found guilty. I request for the court to issue a limited order that there should not be a discussion on the merits of the case,” Dr Shafee said.
“He (Najib) has the right to a fair trial.”
However, Attornery-General Tommy Thomas strongly objected to the request, referring to the freedom of expression and speech.
“What is the point of issuing a gag order when the whole world would talk about it?” he said.
He also gave an example by citing the Sarawak Report, a news site that usually reports on controversial issues, saying that the website is read globally.
“The defence will have to put in an official application for the gag order, which we will be vigorously objecting to,” he added.
Thomas also told Dr Muhammad Shafee to specify to whom the gag order applies to, to which the latter replied, “the media, both digital and newspapers”.
In the end, the High Court judge justice Mohd Sofian Abd Razak granted the interim gag order and fixed for a hearing on the official application on August 8.
Do you think an interim gag order is necessary for Najib? Let us know in the comments below.