KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court today dismissed former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s application for a gag order on the media against discussing the merits of his criminal cases.
Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali meted out the judgement after hearing submissions by the applicant led by counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and deputy public prosecutor Datuk Mohd Hanafiah Zakaria today.
Mohd Nazlan in his judgement said the existing law of contempt and defamation already provide available and ready measures to deal with any such substantial risk of prejudice or interference with the criminal justice system.
He added that the applicant had fallen short of establishing its case.
“Thus, I dismiss this notice of motion,” he said.
On July 4, then presiding High Court judge Mohd Sofian Abd Razak allowed Najib’s application for an interim gag order on the media.
Earlier, counsel Muhammad Shafee who represented Najib submitted that the media furore surrounding his client's alleged criminal wrongdoings and the resulting public backlash have presupposed his client's guilt.
“It is not a dramatic observation to say that the public sentiment against the applicant is prejudiced to such an extent that nothing short of a conviction upon all charges would qualify as justice in the eyes of the public," he said.
Muhammad Shafee claimed that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Finance minister Lim Guan Eng, and Damansara MP Tony Pua had commented on the case and appeared to "support the public's call for blood".
“The gag order would prevent those statements being given the ‘oxygen’ of publicity… you must cut that oxygen,” Muhammad Shafee said.
However, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Hanafiah Zakaria in his submission, said the notice of motion would bar the people from even uttering a hint of the case.
He said it was not made clear if this would only affect mass media, social media, adding that the only possible deduction was that it was meant to cover all forms of media.
“Hence, taken as a whole, from the breakdown of the notice of motion, it could be seen that the order sought is extremely wide.
“It can be inferred that the applicant is seeking the world at large to be restrained from publishing in the media any reports or comments that would imply his (Najib) guilt,” he said.
Najib, earlier, spent almost seven hours in the dock during the proceeding, which is, by far the longest time he has sat in the dock after being charged recently.
Najib claimed trial to three counts of criminal breach of trust and another charge of abuse of power involving RM42 million linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
He also claimed trial at the High Court on Wednesday to receiving more than RM40 million from illegal proceeds linked to SRC International.
He was alleged to have received RM42 million in total, at an Am Islamic Bank branch via electronic funds transfer at Jalan Raja Chulan here between Dec 26, 2014, and Feb 10, 2015.
The offence falls under Section 4 (1) (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.
Najib faces a maximum 15 years’ jail and no less than five times the amount of proceeds involved, or a RM5 million fine, whichever is higher, if convicted.