Malay daily Utusan Malaysia has retracted a story that former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s petition for a royal pardon was approved.
At around 2.30pm today, the popular news site published a story titled “Najib bebas, terima pengampunan” (Najib freed, receives pardon) where it quoted a source as saying that the Pardons Board had met with the king yesterday and that Najib’s pardon had been approved.
However, soon after, the headline was softened with a question mark.
At 3.45pm, the portal published a new story saying it was withdrawing the report that Najib had been given a pardon.
The story simply read:
“Utusan Malaysia has retracted the news about Najib’s pardon due to facts that could not be verified.
“Therefore, we apologise to the readers.”
Earlier today, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Federal Territory) Dr Zaliha Mustafa confirmed to Malaysiakini that the board had met on the matter but declined to provide details.
“Wait for the official statement from the Pardons Board,” she said through an aide.
Meanwhile, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said any news about Najib’s appeal for a royal pardon should come from the Pardons Board and not based on sources.
Fahmi, who is also government spokesman, said it is very important for the media to verify the authenticity of any information received before publishing it.
“Sometimes, the authenticity of the source cannot be ascertained hence it is important to verify the information received.
“I have also checked with Cabinet strategic communications and YB Azalina (Minister of Law and Institutional Reform Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said) and was told that we have to wait for the Pardons Board,” he said.
Rumours that the Pardons Board has made a decision in regards to an appeal by Najib over his conviction grew even louder with news of a press conference by the home minister to be held tomorrow.
Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail is scheduled to hold the special press conference at his ministry in Putrajaya at 3.30pm.
Among the rumours being discussed was that, instead of a full pardon, the former prime minister has been granted a remission of the sentence to just six years from the original 12-year sentence.
To date, Najib has been a prisoner for more than one year and five months.