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AG: Gag order doesn't mean media blackout on Najib case, but best ask lawyers.

News outlets may keep reporting on Datuk Seri Najib Razak's cases over the RM42 million allegedly misappropriated from a former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) unit, the Attorney General (AG) suggested when commenting on a gag order issued by the High Court today.

However, Tommy Thomas said the press should consult with independent lawyers on the full effects of the interim order secured by Najib's counsel, Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah.

'I think the interim (gag order) is only (on) SRC (International) and the charges.

'Read the four charges, go and consult good lawyers, let them tell you your rights. It's limited to SRC,' he told reporters in a press conference outside a High Court courtroom where Najib pleaded not guilty earlier to all four charges.

Thomas also insisted that today's proceedings were entirely open to reporting.

'I assure you, you can report what happened in court today because that is actually what happened,' he said.

The media were told that the gag order was limited to the 'merits of the case'.

Earlier in the press conference, Thomas also said Shafee was the best person to comment on the scope of the order, as it stemmed from his request.

'To be prudent, you may want to take independent legal advice, and then ask the accused and the lawyer more about it, because they are the authors of that,' he said.

However, the AG said his office will apply to set aside the gag order that is now in place until August.

'Our position is we are totally against it, in principle, jurisdictionally, constitutionally, because there is the right of free speech, all of you have free speech, so we are against it and we will oppose it on August 8,' he said.

Thomas said that the prosecution had in court objected to the application for a gag order by Najib's legal team.

'We don't know how wide and the scope of the gag order. We are not sure the court has jurisdiction to order the gag. We were taken by surprise,' he said.

'So it's really for them to sort it out. I think they finally will prepare a paper which will set out the extent of the gag order,' he added.

Thomas also said it was 'too early' when asked if the number of witnesses in Najib's cases had been determined.

When asked how long Najib's trial is expected to take, Thomas said: 'Oh, we don't know premature. We have to go step by step, this is the first step of the process, which is the filing of charges.

Later in the evening, after Najib was bailed, Shafee told reporters that the gag order was aimed at preventing prejudgment and the media's reporting of 'unfair' comments about the merits of Najib's case such as whether he was guilty or innocent without going through a trial.

Shafee said Najib's legal team will present 'full-blown arguments' in court for the gag order to not merely be a temporary order.

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Publication:Malay Mail Online (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia)
Date:Jul 4, 2018
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