A senior journalist with the Sun Media Corporation was yesterday ordered by the High Court to pay RM500,000 (S$204,000) in damages to a businessman for defaming him on Twitter.
This was believed to be the first such case here, where damages were awarded for defamatory tweets.
Judge Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah delivered her decision in chambers yesterday, where she ordered R. Nadeswaran, or popularly known as "Citizen Nades", to pay Datuk Mohamad Salim Fateh Din RM300,000 (S$122,000) in general damages and RM200,000 (S$82,000) in aggravated damages.
The judge also granted an injunction to stop Nadeswaran from repeating the defamatory tweets.
In her written judgment, Amelia said that since there was no defence filed, there was, therefore, no dispute that defamatory statements were made which damaged Salim's reputation. She also stated the the reason there was no defence filed was because the defendant's counsel had failed to do so within the time frame.
Amelia also noted that the defendant's column had a large following and that his Twitter account, with more than 4,000 followers and any number of casual drop-ins, would naturally attract heavy traffic.
She ruled that the defendant should have exercised greater care over his tweets knowing that they could and would be seen by many.
Salim, who heads property development firm Gapurna Group of Companies, filed his RM17 million suit in January last year, alleging that Nadeswaran had defamed him in a tweet on July 2010, implying that he concealed his heritage and that he was not a Bumiputera.
The plaintiff, in his claim, alleged that another defamatory tweet was posted in December 2010, where Nadeswaran had allegedly implied that he was a land thief and that he was involved in illegal land deals.
Salim, who is also chairman of Giant TMC (Malaysia), claimed that the second tweet also implied that he acquired the land through corrupt means via, among others, Azmin Ali, the vice-president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
He further claimed that the tweet suggested that he had secured a contract to build nine blocks of high-rise buildings in Section 52, Petaling Jaya, illegally.
Salim was represented by Dhinesh Bhaskaran while Nadeswaran was represented by Lim Chee Wee. Lim said he would be filing an appeal.