Appeals Court upholds upholds ‘reporter not obliged to reveal sources’ ruling in MP's case

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PUTRAJAYA (Aug 29): The Court of Appeal today dismissed a bid by Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing to compel a journalist to reveal his sources.

The three-person panel headed by Justice Datuk Azahar Mohamed ruled that the High Court decision in this matter was merely a procedural ruling and therefore cannot be appealed.

"The decision handed on July 31 was in effect a procedural ruling and not an order or judgment according to Section 67 of the Courts of Judicature Act. (Therefore) this appeal is incompetent," he said.

The other judges on the panel were Justices Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer.

Tiong had filed an application compelling journalist Joseph Sipalan to disclose his sources for the article titled “Chua and Tiong in Cahoots?” published by the New Sunday Times in September 2009.

The article is the crux of a defamation suit filed by Tiong against former MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

High Court judge Justice Lau Bee Lan, in her interim ruling which she said covered specifically that case, ruled that Sipalan did not have to reveal his sources.

In her written judgment released in November, she said among other things that a journalist owed it to other journalists not to jeopardise their future prospects of getting information.

She also ruled that such protection was accorded on a case-by-case basis and to also took into consideration the interest of the public.

The Court of Appeal today set Sept 5 for case management of the matter, which will go back to the High Court as the trial on the matter was stayed for this appeal to take place.

Tiong had filed his defamation suit in October 2009 against the New Straits Times Press Bhd, its then group editor Datuk Syed Nadzri Syed Harun, Sipalan and Ong.

He later withdrew his claims against NSTP, Syed Nadzri and Sipalan.

The article is the crux of a defamation suit filed by Tiong against former MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat

Sipalan was a witness in the defamation suit, and said that there were seven or eight sources whom he relied upon for the article. He however refused to reveal the names of the sources which led to the application at the Court of Appeal.

Tiong was represented by counsel Prem Ramachandran, while Bhag Singh represented Sipalan and Chan Tse Yuen appeared for Ong.

The court awarded RM10,000 to Sipalan and RM5,000 to Ong as legal costs.