Malaysia: Ex-PM wins defamation lawsuit against paper which alleged he was pro-LGBT

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has succeeded in his defamation lawsuit against newspaper Utusan Melayu.

The former deputy prime minister and de-facto leader of opposition party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) filed the defamation suit against Utusan in January last year. The paper had stated that Mr Anwar wanted to repeal Malaysia’s homophobic laws after he was interviewed calling them “archaic”.

The articles went on to suggest that because of his support for reform, Mr Anwar was not fit to be opposition leader.

Yet Mr Anwar stated in response that he supports laws which discriminate against gay people, as he believes they protect marriage and family values. However, he believes the laws should be modernised to prevent innocent people being subject to suspicion.

Mr Anwar was arrested in 2008 after a male aide accused him of sexual assault. The case was dropped in January 2012 after new DNA evidence emerged.

In 1998, Mr Anwar was imprisoned on charges of sodomy and corruption and sentenced to 15 years in jail, but the charge was overturned in 2004. It took another four years before he could legally return to politics.

Justice Datuk Singham said in his ruling that Utusan Melayu had “not practiced responsible journalism”, and that the articles in question were “a distorted and incorrect version and obviously taken out of context.”

He added, “The articles have a purpose of its own …to give rise to a defamatory imputation that the plaintiff is condoning LGBT activities to be legalised which is not true under the circumstances. This court is of the considered view that both the articles are capable of defamatory meaning and it is defamatory of the plaintiff.”

Mr Anwar is seeking RM45,000 (around £9,000) in compensation from Utusan Melayu.