KUALA LUMPUR: The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd (NSTP) and its reporter apologised Wednesday in a High Court here to Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and 14 Bersih 2.0 steering committee members over a defamatory article published last year.
The group and its reporter Farrah Naz Karim also apologised to Merdeka Strategic Development Centre Sdn Bhd, CIJ Communication Service Sdn Bhd and Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd or Suaram.
The three organisations had also filed suit against NSTP and Farrah Naz.
Justice Lee Heng Cheong ordered NSTP and Farrah Naz, the first and second defendants respectively, to pay RM30,000 costs each to the four plaintiffs.
Counsel Ranjit Singh, who acted for one of the Bersih 2.0 steering committee members, later said that all four suits were fully settled.
The apology was read out in court by Ranjit on Wednesday.
He said the apology was to be published by NSTP in their daily newspaper The New Straits Times (NST) on its third page in exactly the same manner in style within 14 days from Wednesday on any day except Saturday.
"The size of the apology shall cover not less than 50% of the entire third page of the daily," he said.
Ranjit said NSTP has also to publish an apology on the NST Online portal on the front page as the first item under column top news.
Ranjit, in reading the apology statement, said on Sept 21, last year, NSTP had published in its daily newspaper and online newsportal an article, "Plot to Destabilise Govt" with the subtitle,"Exposed: RM20mil paid to several Malaysian organisations since 2005".
He said the apology stated that in essence, the article alleged that The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (known as Bersih 2.0), Suaram, CIJ and Merdeka Centre had received vast sums of money from foreign elements, and their purpose, among others, was to destabilise or overthrow through illegal means the Government and to cause political unrest in the country experienced in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and/or Syria.
Ranjit said NSTP acknowledged that the accusations made in the article were false and without foundation.
He said NSTP also acknowledged that they had no proof whatsoever to substantiate any of the allegations and that they did not verify the information relied on with the four organisations.
"Accordingly, we acknowledge that the article ought not to have been published," said Ranjit when reading the apology statement by the defendants.
The statement of claim filed by Ambiga and 14 other Bersih 2.0 steering committee members on Feb 7 said the words in the article implied that they, or anyone of them through Bersih 2.0, were conspiring with foreign elements to destabilise or overthrow, through illegal or illegitimate means, the Government of Malaysia, and that the plaintiffs were attempting to cause political unrest in Malaysia.
The plaintiffs had sought general damages, exemplary damages and aggravated damages for libel; costs; interest on the said sum of damages from the date of judgement until the date of full and final settlement and other relief as the court deemed proper and just.