KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: The decision by a leading pro-government newspaper to sue two prominent Malaysian bloggers for defamation was groundless and could stifle public expression, two international media watchdogs said Saturday.
The lawsuits by English-language New Straits Times marked the first time Malaysian bloggers have been taken to court for publishing comments on the Internet, in a country where much of the traditional media are controlled by political parties or the government.
“It looks to us as though legal proceedings are being used as a way of silencing two of your newspaper’s critics,” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in open letter sent to New Straits Times CEO Syed Faisal Albar.
“We believe that this case is groundless.”
The first suit was filed on Jan. 11 against Jeff Ooi, whose “Screenshots” blogs carries daily commentaries on the political situation in the country. The site is widely read by Malaysians.