UIAM law professor Abdul Aziz Bari will sue Umno-owned Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia for defamation over its reports on the academic’s remarks about the rulers and religious issues.
"The main reason is that Utusan has twisted and turned my statements. They portray me as insolent, disrespectful and stubborn," the constitutional law expert told Malaysiakini today.
Abdul Aziz’s move comes after Umno, Utusan and NGOs levelled attacks against him in the press following his comments on the recent statement by the Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah over the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais)-Harapan Komuniti controversy.
Jais enforcement officials conducted an inspection of an Aug 3 dinner held by Harapan Komuniti - a social welfare NGO - after allegations that the group was involved in the proselytisation of Muslims.
Twelve Muslims were subsequently investigated over their presence at the dinner.
After Abdul Aziz questioned the sultan’s intervention in favour of Jais’ for acting despite the lack of evidence for the alleged proselytisation, Utusan campaigned against the academic for purportedly going against the institution of Malay rulers.
The academic said he had already instructed his lawyer Hanipa Maidin to start proceedings against Utusan, while another, Zulqarnain Lukman, has been asked to look into the police reports lodged against him.
"In fact, the suggestion came from my lawyers given the decision of the court in Khalid Samad's case. The issue here is that I was making a comment on the basis of my knowledge and expertise.
"But instead of telling us their view and why they did not agree with me they went to town to print all sorts of allegation against me," Abdul Aziz hit out arguing qualified privilege.
Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad was recently awarded RM60,000 in damages after Utusan ordered to pay the amount to the PAS politician for defaming his character.
The fact remains, said Abdul Aziz, that as an academic who has written extensively on the rulers' powers in a democracy, including on religion, he has the authority and knowledge to comment on the matter, despite Utusan's portrayal to the contrary.
More seriously, he claimed that the Malay daily had took his words and the context there are framed in and warped it.
"I have been arguing for the rulers and now Utusan is trying to tell the public that I am against the rulers. My lawyers and they think I stand a good chance."
Apart from Utusan, the professor informed Malaysiakini that he is also reviewing TV3 and Sinar Harian’s coverage of the attacks on him.
"Some of the statements made by Senator Ezam Md Noor (right, in blue shirt) to the press may also become the subject of this action," he added.
He posited that the media concerned may have all forgotten that he is not a politician.
"I am just an academic whose expertise is the constitution. Given that position of mine it looks like the chances are even better than YB Khalid Samad," the lecturer said further.
Abdul Aziz also said that he has been "completely blacked out" not only by the mainstream media but also from seminars and functions organised by them and their associates, arguing that he is not trying to garner publicity with his comments, but just doing his job as an academician.
Aziz Bari jawab Awang Selamat