The court ruled that the news reports seriously damaged Lo’s reputation.
The High Court in Shah Alam today ruled that local news outlet The Star’s publisher Star Media Group Berhad and its three employees had defamed singer Jason Jonathan Lo via news reports published in 2019, and ordered for them to pay RM200,000 as compensation to Lo.
Lo’s lawyer Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh confirmed this to Malay Mail when contacted.
According to Hariharan, the High Court this afternoon found that three articles — two news reports dated May 16, 2019, and May 25, 2019, and a Facebook posting by one of the employees on May 25, 2019, which included commentaries — were defamatory against Lo, and that Star Media Group Berhad and its three employees had failed to prove their defences against the claim of defamation.
In delivering her decision via the video-conferencing platform Zoom, High Court judge Alice Loke Yee Ching found that the three articles all referred to Lo, and also found that the articles when read as a whole and its ordinary meaning implied Lo to have dishonourable character and the articles’ contents were disparaging and seriously damaging to Lo’s reputation, Hariharan said.
According to Hariharan, the High Court rejected Star Media Group and its employees’ defence of justification, as certain portions in the content — such as the alleged history of drug and domestic abuse — were untrue.
Hariharan said the court had also found that the accusation in the articles that Lo is a molester was not substantiated by credible evidence and that the news outlet and its employees as the defendants cannot hope to avoid liability by using words like “allegedly” in the articles or by “mere reportage” or reporting the contents of police reports.
According to Hariharan, the High Court also found that the defendants had failed to prove the defence of qualified privilege, for reasons such as failing to publish Lo’s side of the story and the unreasonable timeline given for Lo to respond.
Hariharan said the High Court also found that the defendants overstepped the boundaries of responsible journalism in the publication of the three articles, and ordered the defendants to pay costs of RM40,000 besides the RM200,000 in general damages to Lo.
Today, Lo was also represented by lawyer Effa Azuin Aidrul Hisham, while the Star Media Group and its employees were represented by lawyer Joycelyn Goh.
The High Court had previously heard the defamation suit from July 10 to July 12 this year, with Lo testifying as his own witness and the defendants having eight witnesses.
Lo, who is formerly a former chief executive officer of a telecommunications company, had in August 2019 filed a defamation lawsuit in the High Court in Shah Alam against The Star’s publisher and the three personnel.
Among other things, Lo had sought for the court to order injunctions to stop the defendants from further publishing the same or similar defamatory words, and for a full retraction of the articles and the actual facts to be published on the local daily The Star and its portal The Star Online, as well as compensation such as in the form of general damages.
Previously, Lo had in July 2021 also filed a defamation lawsuit against the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) over two news reports published on August 18, 2019, and September 1, 2020.
The High Court had in May this year dismissed Lo’s lawsuit against Bernama, as it found that the two articles were not defamatory against him. – MMO