Be careful! I can sue you for defamation!

Be careful! I can sue you for defamation!

On Facebook, I often see some people outspokenly telling on how black-hearted, dishonest, liar and etc other people and businesses are. Little do they know that this will cause cyber bullying and other legal issues to arise. The victim here can lodge a complaint to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Committee (MCMC). According to section 233 of the Malaysian Multimedia and Communications Act 1998, anyone who spreads obsence, indecent, false, menacing, or offensive content may be charged and fined or imprisonment or both.

Of course, this investigation and prosecution are all carried out by law enforcement agencies; if the Communications and Multimedia Commission or the police decide that the case is not strong and choose not to carry out an investigation, the question arises is whether there is any other legal way for the victim to get justice?

In this article, the author mainly shares some relevant civil litigation legal knowledge about defamation in Malaysia. Defamation mainly refers to actions that deliberately spread falsely facts that are sufficient to damage someone personality and reputation. Our country has a Defamation Act 1957 which sets out relevant definitions and laws.

To put it simply, a Plaintiff must meet three elements in order to prove a defamation case. In the defendant’s disputed statement, whether it is spoken or written, the plaintiff must prove:

1)       That statement is defamatory.

That is, what ordinary people come to with common sense whereby it will devalue the status of the plaintiff in the general public, and will make the public create a sense of hatred, despise or ridicule to the plaintiff;

2)       The statement is express or implied by the plaintiff.                               

As long as most people can clearly confirm that this statement refers to the Plaintiff;

3)       The statement has been spread to a third party.

It must be noted that the Plaintiff does not need to prove whether the Defendant made a defamatory statement maliciously. In other words, the defendant cannot use “thinking to tell the facts without knowing that it hurt the plaintiff” as a legitimate reason to utter defamatory remarks and statements.

When the Defendant is sued of defamation, he can present his defense. In law, there are usually several defenses for defamation:

1)       Justification

The Defendant must prove that his statement is true;

2)       Fair Comment

The Defendant’s statement cannot be motivated by bad faith, but based on the opinions expressed on the basis of real facts, is fair and protects the public interest;

3)       Privilege

In some cases, the defendant enjoys privileges and cannot be sued by the plaintiff for defamation; for example, in parliamentary procedures, judicial procedures, or administrative affairs.

If the plaintiff successfully proves that the Defendant’s statement is defamatory, the judge will examine whether the defendant has a legitimate defense. If at the end of the case, the judge believes that the defendant does not have a reasonable defense, the judge will then rule that the Defendant must compensate the Plaintiff based on the Plaintiff’s losses. In deciding the amount of compensation, the court considers numbers of factors including: the severity of the defamation, the degree of damage to the personal reputation, the loss off Plaintiff’s income due to the defamation statement, and whether the defendant has any malicious intention, etc.

“In fact, defamation cases are quite common in our country, especially among politicians. There are many defamation cases among politicians. Of course, most of them are settled privately or by reconciliations.”

In this era of advanced internet and technology, many netizens give their opinions without second thinking and attack others at will. If the remarks or statements meet the three elements mentioned above, you will get into trouble any time, and you may receive a letter from a lawyer and a lawsuit. As the saying goes, wherever you go, there will be traces, even if the statement or statement is deleted by the Defendant, but as long as the Plaintiff has retained evidence to prove that the Defendant has made a defamatory statement, the plaintiff can still file a complaint.

Here, the author also sincerely urge the netizens not to arbitrarily post defamatory and derogatory remarks on the Internet. This is because all the remarks that have been written must be held accountable to them and may be a time bomb ticking every second. You do not know when there will be someone belittled for your remarks and is willing to spend money to engage a lawyer to sue you. At that point of time, you need to spend money, time and effort to defence the suit.

Of course, the author also believes that some people choose to post and share it online for public awareness because they met some unscrupulous merchants or friends cheating their money. However, the author believes that everyone should seek compensation through legitimate legal way, rather than unilaterally go against the other party in this way.

BY WINSON TAN

Note: This article is for reference only and does not constitute legal advice. Therefore, if readers have any legal questions or needs, they should seek professional legal advice. If the reader suffers any loss by relying on this article, the author will not be held responsible.

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