Will the Wall Street Journal be sued for libel over its reporting on the prime minister of Malaysia, the United Malay National Organisation’s Najib Razak? The Najib corruption claims accused him of funneling money to his personal accounts from Malaysia’s state fund.
The prime minister’s political secretary Muhd Khairun Aseh called the article criminal defamation, Free Malaysia Today reported.
Aseh said, “we will take legal action” over the “most malicious” report.
In a Facebook post, Razak, who has more than 2 million followers, responded to the claims, which he denied.
“Let me be very clear: I have never taken funds for personal gain as alleged by my political opponents – whether from 1MDB, SRC International or other entities, as these companies have confirmed,” he wrote. “It is now clear that false allegations such as these are part of a concerted campaign of political sabotage to topple a democratically elected Prime Minister.”
Najib claimed the allegations were “all unsubstantiated, and many simply outrageous,” the work of a political attack.
Najib’s office also issued a July 3 statement also calling it “political sabotage.”
The statement said in part:
“It has been reported that criminal leaking of documents, doctoring and extortion has taken place to mislead the media and public.
“So it is incumbent on responsible members of the media not to accept documents as genuine unless verified by the appropriate authorities.
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“Regarding the allegations themselves, it must be noted that 1MDB has already stated that the company never provided funds to the Prime Minister.”
The Wall Street Journal‘s July 2 story was titled “Investigators believe money flowed to Malaysian leader Najib’s accounts amid 1MDB probe.”
“Malaysian investigators scrutinizing a controversial government investment fund have traced nearly $700 million of deposits into what they believe are the personal bank accounts of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, according to documents from a government probe,” the Journal reported. “The investigation documents mark the first time Mr. Najib has been directly connected to the probes into state investment fund” 1MDB. The rest of the article is behind a paywall.
According to Reuters, “The Wall Street Journal‘s report, if true, would be the first time the beleaguered prime minister has been directly linked to accusations of corruption surrounding the fund.” Reuters noted, “Reuters could not independently verify the report.”
The Wall Street Journal is standing by the story, with its Hong Kong bureau chief Ken Brown telling CNBC: “We are very careful. We believe the investigation and documents we have are solid and come from reliable investigation and not a political investigation.”
He added, “It’s a significant story and we take it very seriously.” Watch his interview below.
iMediaEthics has written to the Prime Minister’s office and the Wall Street Journal for comment.