Malaysia's Home Ministry has lost its appeal against a High Court decision ordering it to pay damages for its suspension of The Edge group's publications last year.
A three-judge Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the High Court's ruling last September, maintaining the group has a right to claim damages.
But no order was made as to the costs, Justice Mohd Zawawi Salleh was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini news site. This means that the Home Ministry and The Edge group will need to head back to the High Court for an assessment of damages.
The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly were suspended in July last year for their reports on troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The Home Ministry had deemed the reports detrimental to public order, security and national interest.
The Edge group then applied for a judicial review over the suspension. In allowing the application on Sept 21 last year, the High Court ruled that the ministry had reacted irrationally and illegally, and quashed the three-month suspension order.
Representing the ministry in the appeal, Senior Federal Counsel Alice Loke said the Home Minister had the legal discretion to issue a suspension order. "There is no malice or allegation of malice in the order, as there were no such submission or notion made by The Edge."
The Edge group's lawyer Daryl Goon argued that the minister had acted recklessly without first making inquiries on whether the publication had breached the law.
Malaysia's judicial system allows an appeal up to the Federal Court, the country's apex court. This allows the ministry the option to pursue one last appeal. The Edge reported that the federal counsel indicated that an appeal is likely.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is also Deputy Prime Minister.
The Edge publications were suspended after they ran a series of stories on 1MDB. The articles claimed that the debt-laden state fund was defrauded of more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion). 1MDB comes under the purview of the Finance Ministry. Prime Minister Najib Razak is also the Finance Minister.