PUTRAJAYA - In a much-awaited judgment, the Court of Appeal threw out a second attempt by a politician to compel a reporter to reveal the sources of his story.
As a result of the judgment, reporter Joseph Sipalan need not reveal the sources of his story in a defamation case filed by Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing against former Pandan MP Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.
Earlier, a High Court judge had during the trial rejected a first attempt by Tiong to force Sipalan to reveal his source by threatening to have the writer cited for contempt of court if he refused to do so.
In the written decision dated Nov 30 last year, trial judge Justice Lau Bee Lan held that it would be more in the public interest for the court not to order Sipalan to disclose the sources.
Yesterday, Court of Appeal judge Justice Azahar Mohamed, who chaired a three-man panel, held that Tiong's appeal was incompetent and unappealable as he had appealed against a "procedural ruling". Under the law, any appeal must be based on a final judgment of a court and not on procedural rulings made within the trial.
"This appeal against the High Court ruling is incompetent and unappealable. The appeal is dismissed," he said in unanimous decision yesterday.
The other two judges in the panel are Justices Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer.
Justice Azahar ordered the trial of the defamation suit to proceed before the same High Court judge.
Justice Azahar ordered Tiong to pay RM10,000(SGD$4,000) to Malay Mail Online news reporter Sipalan, who was represented by counsel Bhag Singh.
He also directed Tiong to pay RM5,000 to Ong, who was represented by counsel Chan Tse Yuen. Lawyer Prem Ramachandran acted for Tiong.
Speaking to reporters later, Chan said that so far, two witnesses - Tiong and Sipalan - had testified in the trial of the defamation suit.
Justice Lau, in her decision earlier, said Sipalan had given an undertaking to preserve confidentiality in relation to the sources of information.
She also said a journalist owed a duty to other journalists not to imperil their future prospects of obtaining information.
Tiong had filed an application to compel Sipalan, who was then a New Straits Times reporter, to disclose his sources in the article, which is the subject matter in the defamation suit filed by Tiong against Ong.