KUCHING, June 28: Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing has served a Letter of Demand on Borneo Post Sdn Bhd and Borneo Post Online Sdn Bhd over several articles published recently that were deemed defamatory in nature.
The Letter of Demand was served on the publishers on June 26, 2018, and the publishers have seven days to offer an apology. If they fail to do so, Masing, who is also a deputy chief minister, would sue them.
In a statement distributed and read out by PRS secretary-general Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum during a press conference at PRS headquarters here today, Masing said he was advised by his lawyers that he had a good cause for legal action against the publishers for defamation.
“The publishers continue to publish reactionary news article with headlines like ‘… suggestion to spend all its reserves has drawn flaks and scorn …..’ (Page 1, Borneo Post, June 20, 2018) and ‘Finance Ministry rejects Masing’s call to use up reserves’ (Page 2, Borneo Post, June 20, 2018) knowing full well that the original preview blurb created by the publisher was the cause of these reactions,” said Masing.
He added that that the ‘preview blurb(s)’ used by Borneo Post Online on June 19, 2018, was taken out of context.
“Instead of reporting facts, the publisher chose to use the ‘Should Sarawak use up all its reserve before the next state election?’ preview blurb that projected that I proposed that Sarawak State reserves be ‘use up all’.
“The preview blurb was in a reference to news published by Borneo Post on June 19, 2018, from a speech delivered by me at a PRS dinner on June 17, 2018. Please do take note that the ‘original preview blurb(s)’ with the word ‘use up all’ was pinned up on the publisher’s timeline to ensure maximum visibility and exposure to its Facebook visitors.
“I tried to explain that my text was taken out of context, and I offered a part of my speech text which serves as a structure guide for my speech for the night of June 17 to some members of the media, who interviewed me regarding the same matter.
“Meanwhile, the ‘original preview blurb’ on the publishers’ Facebook was amended (as a result of dropping the two words ‘up all’) to mean a totally different thing, which read ‘Should Sarawak use its RM31b reserve for developments before the next state election’,” said Masing in the statement.
Masing further pointed out that on June 20, 2018, in an article titled ‘Have the media misquoted Masing?’ the Borneo Post maintained that Masing deviated from his actual speech text and offered its readers an incomplete recording of part of the speech delivered that night.
“Based on the recording offered by the publisher, I never mentioned nor suggested to the state government to ‘use up all’ the reserves.
“Based on the voice recording I have, the following crucial sentences of me saying ‘we have the money, but use that properly. Use the small project that have the greatest impact to our rural areas’ was absent in the publisher’s recording.
“The publisher acknowledged that the reason why they changed the original preview blurb was because ‘when the news broke and subsequent public backlash ensued, we realised that many of our commenters were interpreting our preview blurb as a direct quote from Masing’ (Source: Borneo Post, June 20, 2018).”
Masing made it clear that he did not accept the excuse of the publishers that the original preview blurb on Facebook was of no attribution to him.
Today’s press conference was a follow-up to another held on June 20, 2018, where Salang and other PRS leaders stood by Masing to protest and clarify that their president’s speech was taken out of context and that he had never suggested to ‘use up all’ the state reserves before the next state election.
“During that press conference on June 20, it was revealed that I would be seeking legal recourse on this matter.
“Today, the purpose of this press conference is to inform members of the media on its new development and to confirm that a Letter of Demand has been served on the publishers involved,” said Masing in the statement. — DayakDaily