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Malaysiakini meets fund raising target of RM$350,000 to pay cost and damages in defamation suit

Malaysiakini, Malaysia's leading independent news agency, has raised RM350,000 (S$117,631) it had urgently needed for its legal defence fund.

In a post written to thank all of the contributors, the agency stated that the sum was raised in just 12 days through direct bank deposit, credit card or PayPal transfers. The success of the fund raising showed that the public supported its efforts to report community issues.

Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran said it was humbling that so many people from all walks of life responded to the appeal, saying, "On behalf of Malaysiakini's staff, I would like to thank all contributors and everyone who supported us in spirit." and thanked the thousands of supporters and readers who have helped raise the sum needed for its legal defence fund.

Editor-in-chief Steven Gan said the response to the appeal showed that Malaysians supported Malaysiakini's values and mission, "When we launched the fund on Jan 11, we thought it would take at least a month to raise this much money. To achieve it in less than half the time is a testament to the many Malaysians who put their faith in us. We now have a tremendous duty to continue to do what we set out to do - to tell truth to power and to hold power to account."

The agency was forced to appeal to the public for help after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd (RAGM) in its defamation suit against the news organisation.

RAGM sued the agency over three articles and two video clips on health concerns expressed by residents regarding the mining activities, where cyanide-related chemicals were used to extract gold, which took place near their village at Bukit Koman in Raub, Pahang.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had dismissed RAGM's suit on the grounds that it failed to prove malice on the part of the agency in 2016.

This decision was overturned by the three-member Court of Appeal panel, led by Justice Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, on 11 January.

The panel ruled that the agency's defence of reportage and the Reynolds defence could not be applied in this case.

The court had ordered the agency to pay RM200,000 (SGD$67,120) in damages and RM150,000 (SGD$50,340) in legal cost.

The gold mine has since ceased operations and commenced liquidation proceedings.

The agency has planned to file an appeal with the Federal Court, however, the court order to pay the RM350,000 has already been received.

Gan noted the agency will seek their lawyer's advice on how to handle the order and the appeal.

Malaysiakini notes that though the fund raising campaign is officially over, those who still want to contribute can continue to do so, as any additional money will go into its legal defence fund for future cases.