I am no expert in law stuffs, but every now and then I learn bit by bit. This is the oversimplified version that I learnt.
Defamation is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim that may bring individual a negative image. Most jurisdiction allows legal actions to retaliate against groundless criticisms. Defamation is divided into slander and libel. Slander is spoken, libel is written. For someone to take a legal action, one must provide the proof of actual injury (emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of reputation etc) and the proof of defamation (publication, public reports or statements).
What are the laws governing defamation in Malaysia?
In civil cases of defamation, when a private person sues another private person for defamation, the Defamation Act 1957 is applicable.
In criminal cases of defamation, when the state prosecutes a private person for defamation, Section 499 to Section 502 of the Penal Code is applicable.
Defamation Act 1957 is applicable only in Malaysia. Whatever happens outside the borders of Malaysia is bound to the law of the country of residence.
There is somehow a dilemma – the INTERNET.
Internet based community is more akin to conversations in a bar or pub, with content being written as an ongoing dialog which is generally not edited or regulated. Everyone can be a dog in the cyber world, they can write malicious comments and libels, especially in the blogs and forums. To seek legal action against the bloggers (or forummers) is not going to solve the problem. So if one blog closes down, ten more defamatory blogs can be created.
Defamation laws always come into tension with freedom of speech. Let’s say if I defame the Jews and deny the existence of holocaust or whatsoever in my blog that might make myself an anti-semite, I can be arrested once I step foot in the champions of free speech countries; Germany, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and other countries with such laws against holocaust denial.
The misuse of defamation among Malaysian politicians also have created a self-censorship and restricted the right of those Malaysians with dissenting opinions to participate freely and fully in public life. NST vs Jeff Ooi & Ahirudin Atan, Government vs Raja Petra, Teresa Kok vs Utusan and the list won’t stop. There’s no wonder Malaysia is worse than some undeveloped countries in terms of freedom of speech. What more, legal actions can also be sought against opinions that may bring individual a negative image.
Yes, one can seek injunction to shut down a blog or delete the publication or compensatory damage from the defendant. Is it worth the effort, no one really knows.
Apparently people sue people for speaking/writing some defamatory words in Malaysia, most of which result in emotional suffering. And it seems that Malaysians are very easy to get emotional sufferings, even to negative opinions. Malaysians boleh!
P/S: To fellow bloggers, write responsibly. Defamation lawsuit is much nearer to your arse than your own crap.