1MDB saga

High Court lifts suspension against The Edge

Men walking past a 1MDB billboard at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Men walking past a 1MDB billboard at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's High Court has quashed the Home Ministry's decision to suspend two publications of The Edge Communications that have been accused of publishing reports on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that the authorities say are detrimental to public order, security and national interest.

High Court judge Asmabi Mohamad yesterday ordered the three-month suspension against The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly to be lifted and told the ministry to pay RM15,000 (S$5,000) in costs to the publisher.

The Edge group said in a statement in July that it had received a letter from the ministry over its articles about the troubled state investment firm.

The letter stated that the two publications' reporting of 1MDB was "prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest", The Star reported.

The two publishing permits had been suspended for three months from July 27.

In allowing The Edge's judicial review application, Datuk Asmabi ruled that the Home Ministry had acted irrationally and illegally by issuing the suspension orders, and that it had breached procedural fairness when issuing a show-cause letter to the publications over its reports on the 1MDB controversy, the Malay Mail Online news site reported.

"The respondent did not comply with procedural fairness as he did not give particulars of suspension to the applicant," she was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider website.

Outlining the background of the case, the judge highlighted that the show-cause letter issued by the Home Ministry made a "blanket allegation" without specifying the articles that were alleged to be undesirable publications.

She noted that the publisher was put in a "difficult position" as it had published 300 articles since 2009 on 1MDB and could not give a specific response to the general claim in the show-cause letter.

The Home Ministry, she said, should have been more careful in issuing the order as it had affected the livelihoods of those employed by the Edge group.

"The conclusion - on totality of evidence before the court and relevant law, I am satisfied that the decision of the respondent in this case is tainted with illegality," she said, adding that the court would assess damages to be awarded later.

1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been dogged by controversy over its RM42 billion (S$14 billion) debt and alleged financial mismanagement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'High Court lifts suspension against The Edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe