M'sian high court: Reporters need not reveal sources in defamation cases

KUALA LUMPUR - A reporter of a newspaper is not required to reveal his sources in a defamation case, declared the Kuala Lumpur high court here on Wednesday.

High court judge Justice Lau Bee Lan dismissed an application by Bintulu Member of Parliament Tiong King Sing to compel Joseph Sipalan, a former Malaysian daily New Straits Times journalist, to reveal the sources for a story he had written.

Joseph wrote an article with the heading "Chua and Tiong in cahoots?" that was published in New Sunday Times on 6 Sept 2009.

The article is now the subject matter in the defamation suit filed by Tiong against former Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Ong Tee Keat.

Justice Lau had ordered Tiong to pay 15,000 ringgit (US$4,634) in costs to Sipalan, represented by Bhag Singh and 5,000 ringgit ($1,544) to Ong, represented by Chan Tze Yuen.

The judge made the decision in his chambers after hearing submissions from all parties.

Speaking to the reporters later, Tiong's counsel Prem Rama­chandran said that they would appeal the ruling.

Prem had argued that the disclosure of sources by a reporter is relevant in a defamation case.

Sipalan, 31, had earlier testified that a few people were his sources for that story.

However, he refused to reveal their identities, prompting Tiong to subsequently file the application to compel Sipalan to reveal his sources.

In his sworn evidence on January 30, Tiong said that in the article, Ong had accused him of conspiring with current MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek to bring him down.

Tiong had originally filed a suit on 12 Oct 2009 against The New Straits Times Press Bhd (NSTP), its group editor Syed Nadzri Syed Harun, Sipalan and Ong. He later withdrew his claim against NSTP, Syed Nadzri and Sipalan.