Gag Order On Media Covering Anifah Aman Election Petition Trial

KOTA KINABALU: An election court judge has allowed an interim gag order on the media to obtain copies of witness statements tendered in the petition against Datuk Seri Anifah Aman’s win in Kimanis last year.

The judge Datuk Lee Heng Cheong made an interim gag order on the media following an application by one of Anifah’s lawyers to stop the media from reporting based on petitioner’s witness statements submitted on court during the trial.

(Witnesses appearing in court confirmed presigned statements made by them. Most of it were not read out in open court but the media managed to get details of the statements which were used in their reports)

On Wednesday, the lawyer applied to have the court issue a directive to disallow future reporting on the trial based on the petitioner’s witness statements until the end.

The judge made an interim gag order on the matter during the course of the hearing Wednesday.

Coverage of the on-going case would become difficult for the media to report on witness statements as they are not required give their full statements in open court as part of changes to procedure to save time for hearings.

The court was told that the move to disallow media coverage and publication of the petitioner’s witness statement would honour the integrity of the trial, and disallow subjudice material from public domains.

The lawyer concerned said it would also prevent the risk of an unjust trial due to potential growing pressure for a prosecution if everything were published in the media.

On June 18 last year, Parti Warisan Sabah’s losing candidate Datuk Karim Bujang filed an election petition to challenge the election results in which Anifah won with a 156 vote majority after he garnered 11,942 votes against Karim’s 11,786 votes.

The High Court threw out the petition last Oct 16 but the Federal Court then overturned the decision and remitted it back to the court for trial.