This morning, [The Edge] editor emeritus Azam Aris was charged in the Petaling Jaya Magistrate’s Court for criminal defamation of Kua Khai Shyuan, DGB Asia Bhd, Trive Property Group Bhd, Metronic Global Bhd and MNC Wireless Bhd over articles The Edge published on how penny stocks were manipulated by hidden hands on Bursa Malaysia.
When we were informed yesterday (12 September) by Assistant Superintendent of Police Mohd Adnan Alias of Brickfields Police that the deputy public prosecutor’s office of Kuala Lumpur had directed that charges be filed against two of our editors, Azam Aris and M Shanmugam, we were shocked that they were intervening in what, if anything at all, is essentially a civil dispute.
M Shanmugam is currently out of the country and we are told he will be charged when he returns.
This is the background:
- On 29 July 2021, one of our editors was informed by an investigating officer with the Brickfields Police that a police report had been lodged against us over the two articles
- On 2 August, two senior editors met the investigating officer and were shown the two articles that had been published in The Edge weekly:
- Hidden Hands Behind Penny Stocks Surge Under Scrutiny (12 April 2021)
- Hidden Hands Behind Penny Stock Surge (21 September 2020)
- The investigating officer told our editors that The Edge was being investigated for criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Criminal Penal Code. This was after a police report was lodged by Kua, a businessman who is a minor shareholder and director of a few of the companies whose shares were trading in a volatile pattern over several months in 2020
- In their statements to the investigating officer, our editors said that extensive research had been done to put together the articles, involving mainly data and information obtained from Bursa and company annual reports
- At further meetings with the police on 16 August, 18 August, 14 December and 16 December in 2021, our editors were repeatedly told that we have to provide the names of the journalists who were involved in the two articles
- It was conveyed to the police why we cannot provide the names of any of the journalists for safety reasons. We cited the incident in 2018, when a senior officer in the market surveillance department of Bursa was the victim of an acid attack, believed to be linked to an investigation into a market manipulation case
- It is because we want to ensure the safety of our journalists that the two articles were published without any names
Manipulation can wreak havoc to the orderly function of the stock market, damage the reputation of Bursa and cause many innocent people to lose money. Regulators like Bursa and the Securities Commission Malaysia frequently advise investors to be cautious.
The volatile trading of penny stocks which took place in 2020 and early 2021 has abated, following our last article in April 2021 and after warnings by market regulators. Many people have lost money as the prices of these stocks have collapsed. However, the losses would have been much more had the manipulation continued in a big way.
As a media that reports on the stock market and corporate sector extensively, we have a responsibility to highlight important matters to the investing public – including alerting them about how stock prices are being manipulated.
We are, therefore, baffled as to why the police and the deputy public prosecutor’s office of Kuala Lumpur are pressing criminal defamation charges against us for informing investors about stock market manipulation.
Where is the defamation?
If the complainant, who is a private businessman, feels we have defamed him, the police and the deputy public prosecutor should ask him to file a civil suit against us instead of using public resources. – The Edge
Datuk Ho Kay Tat is publisher and group CEO of The Edge Media Group