Legal Update 7 of 2018




Statements made by one colleague about another – when is it Defamatory?


·         Abu Hassan, a senior lecturer and political analyst at the University of Malaysia Kelantan commenced an action against Zukeri a lecturer on probation for the tort of defamation.

·         The claim was that Zukeri had authored two offensive emails and caused the same to be published via his UMK email address to various groups, namely all academic staff and administrators.

·         The contended words in the emails were claimed to be defamatory and was issued with malicious intent.

As a result of this Abu Hassan claims he had suffered distress and embarrassment.

·         Zukeri was also accused of sending text messages to Abu Hassan threatening to send him to jail.

·         Subsequently, there were reports and online media portals have reported that the Abu Hassan had committed fraud.

·         Abu Hassan demanded that Zukeri withdraw and retract the two impugned emails, render an apology as well as give an undertaking that he would not repeat similar publication of defamatory statements to the public at large. The demands were not met.

·         Abu Hassan then commenced this suit seeking damages for defamation.

·         In response, Zukeri pleaded the defence of justification and claimed that the impugned emails were 'fair comments' on matters of 'public interest' to UMK.

·         The High Court dismissed Abu Hassan’s claim.

·         Abu Hassan then appealed against the decision of the High Court.

DECISION: Appeal Allowed

·         The Court held that Zukeri did not prove the elements of defamation: -

·         Whether the e mails bore defamatory meaning;

·         Whether the e mails referred to Abu Hassan;

·         Whether the e mails were published to any third party;

·         The defamatory emails sent were not the responsibility of Zukeri and there was a clear procedure for complaints to be addressed.

·         The impugned emails were sent by a person who did not have the legal duty and interest or a duty, legal or social or moral, to make it and the recipient of the impugned emails did not have a corresponding interest or duty to receive it.

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