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Procès intenté par Raub Australian Gold (diffamation contre Hue Shieh Lee (en Malaisie))

Aperçu de l'affaire:

En septembre 2013, la compagnie minière australienne Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) a porté plainte pour diffamation devant la Haute Cour de Kuala Lumpur contre Hue Shieh Lee, résidente de Bukit Koman et vice-présidente du groupe d’activistes malaisien « Ban Cyanide Action Group ». La compagnie alléguait que Hue Shieh Lee avait tenu des propos diffamatoires à son encontre au sujet de la contamination des eaux locales par des déversements de cyanure depuis ses installations ; et que la compagnie était donc directement responsable d’une dégradation des conditions de santé dans la région de Bukit Koman. En février 2019, la Cour d’appel malaisienne a rejeté à l'unanimité l'appel interjeté par RAGM. Le tribunal a jugé que la compagnie aurait pu répondre par un communiqué de presse aux allégations faites par Hue Shieh Lee et corriger les inexactitudes. La société a été condamnée à payer 60 000 RM (14 365 dollars) de frais de justice.                                                                                                                                           

For an English-language version of this case profile, please click here.

En septembre 2013, Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM), une compagnie minière opérant à Bukit Koman, en Malaisie, a porté plainte pour diffamation contre trois membres du groupe d’activistes malaisien « Ban Cyanide Action Group ». La compagnie a retiré sa plainte contre deux des trois activistes après avoir reçu des excuses formelles de leur part pour leurs propos sur les opérations de la compagnie. La seule plainte qui a fait l'objet d’un procès devant la Haute Cour de Kuala Lumpur a été celle contre Hue Shieh Lee, une résidente de Bukit Koman et vice-présidente du groupe Ban Cyanide, concernant de déclarations faites dans deux articles publiés en 2013 par Malaysiakini et Free Malaysia Today. En septembre 2012, une plainte de la compagnie pour diffamation contre ces deux journaux numériques, a été rejetée.. La plainte alléguait que certaines des déclarations de Hue Shieh Lee étaient diffamatoires, car elles suggéraient que la société avait autorisé les déversements de cyanure depuis ses installations et qu’elle était donc directement responsable des problèmes de santé de la communauté de Bukit Koman. Le deuxième article contenait des déclarations prétendument diffamatoires sur le nombre limité de membres de la communauté locale employés dans les locaux de la société.

Le 17 mai 2016, la Haute Cour de Kuala Lumpur a rejeté l’action en justice, estimant que le simple fait d’avoir annoncé les résultats de l’enquête ne constituait pas une diffamation de RAGM et que la compagnie n’avait pas prouvé que les déclarations contenues dans le deuxième article de presse étaient une reproduction des propos prononcés par Hue Shieh Lee. Le 21 octobre 2016, RAGM a fait appel de cette décision. La Cour d’appel a confirmé la décision de la Haute Cour en soulignant que Hue Shieh Lee « exerçait ses droits de militante » lorsqu’elle exprimait ses préoccupations sur les conditions de santé dans sa commune. La Cour a aussi ajouté que l’étendue de la liberté d’expression doit être interprétée au vu du fait que « nous vivons maintenant dans une société beaucoup plus libérale, où les concepts de transparence et de responsabilité font partie intégrante de nos vies ». La Cour a également souscrit au raisonnement et aux conclusions de la Haute Cour à propos du deuxième article de presse objet de la plainte de RAGM.

Le 16 octobre 2017, RAGM a obtenu l’autorisation de saisir la Cour d’appel fédérale malaisienne, la plus haute juridiction du pays. En février 2019, ladite cour a unanimement rejeté l’appel interjeté par RAGM et a convenu avec la cour inférieure que « l’intimé protégeait le bien-être des résidents » et que la compagnie aurait pu répondre par un communiqué de presse aux allégations faites par Hue Shieh Lee et corriger toute inexactitude. La compagnie a été condamnée à payer 60 000 RM (14 365 dollars) de frais de justice.

RAGM n’est plus active à Bukit Koman. Les activistes malaisiens exigent maintenant que le gouvernement ordonne à RAGM d’assainir la zone d’opération et de réhabiliter l’ancienne mine.

Extraits de presse:

[EN] A Victory and the Long Road to Justice in Malaysia, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), ELAW Bulletin, 27 March 2019

[EN] Malaysian court rules in favor of activist accused of defamation by transnational mining company, Real World Radio (Malaysia), 21 March 2019

[EN] Federal Court dismisses Raub Australian Gold Mining’s appeal in defamation suit, Malaymail, 13 February 2019

[EN] [video] Interview with the attorney for the community, Gurdial Singh Nijar, KiniTV, 12 February 2019

[EN] Raub Australian Gold Mining defamation suit to go to Federal Court, The Star online, 16 October 2017

[EN] Bukit Koman villager wins in gold mine's defamation suit, Malaysiakini 16 May 2016

[EN] Gold mining company withdraws suit after activist apologises, Star online, 9 December 2014

Décisions:

[EN] Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd v. Hue Shieh Lee (2019.02.13), Federal Court of Malaysia (Judgment), 13 February 2019

[EN] Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn. BHD v. Hue Shieh Lee, Malaysia Court of Appeal (Judgment), 21 October 2016

 

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Tous les éléments de cette histoire

Article
+ English - Cacher

Auteur: Maggie Keenan, ELAW

ELAW has worked for years with partners in Malaysia to protect the community of Bukit Koman from a polluting gold mining operation. Villagers conducted environmental surveys to identify contaminants. When Shirly Hue, Vice Chairperson of the Bukit Koman Anti Cyanide Committee, announced the survey results at a press conference, Raub Australian Gold Mining company sued for defamation.
 
Last month, the defamation suit was thrown out...
 
On hearing the ruling, ELAW partner Theivanai Amarthalingam from Friends of the Earth Malaysia wrote:
 
"Sherly Hue is one of the youths of this community who never gave up and continued to fight to the end, knowing well that if she lost, she would have had to pay hundreds of thousands in Malaysian Ringgit in damages and costs. But she had the support of the community all the way and the community shares her victory."
 
The Federal Court recognized the rights of activists to bring issues affecting communities to the attention of authorities, stating:
 
"We must not lose sight of the fact that the existence of activist groups is very much part of today's society, so much so that it is undeniable that they have contributed much to the general well-being of the society at large... We now live in a much more liberal society where the concept of transparency and accountability are very much part and parcel of our lives. Hence the freedom of speech entrenched in our Constitution must be construed in that context."
 

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Article
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Auteur: Real World Radio (Malaysia)

The Federal Court, the highest court of Malaysia, unanimously dismissed an appeal filed by Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM), a gold mining company that had sued activist Sherly Hue for defamation. Hue is part of the resistance against the company´s operations in Bukit Koman, Pahang State.

The Court´s decision issued in mid-February, which puts an end to the suit that started in 2013, agreed with the previous decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal of Malaysia. Sherly is the Vice Chairperson of Bukit Koman Ban Cyanide Committee, created in 2006 to resist the factory that eventually began operations in 2009...

The activist had been accused by the company for allegedly defaming them in two press statements where, according to the company, Sherly had linked the operations of the factory with health effects on the local population. The Federal Court ruled that in one of the cases, the words of the defendant to the press were not defamatory and in the second case the company could not even prove that Sherly had made that statement in the first place. This is what lawyer Jessica Binwani, one of the legal advisers of the case, said to Real World Radio in an interview conducted by our colleague Theiva Lingam, of Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific...

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Article
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Auteur: Malaymail

A five-man bench of the Federal Court today dismissed the appeal by Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd (RAGM) in its lawsuit against a Bukit Koman resident in Pahang for defamation in respect of two articles.

Federal Court judge Tan Sri Ramly Ali, who presided the bench, said the appellate court had applied correctly the test in determining the impugned words and in concluding that the words in the first article did not expose RAGM to hatred, contempt or ridicule...

He also said the court agreed with the High Court and Court of Appeal that the words complained of by RAGM in the second article were not the actual words uttered or published by Hue Shieh Lee but the words were in fact a report or statements by a reporter.

Justice Ramly said RAGM had failed to call the reporter as a witness during the trial, to prove that she had interviewed Hue and Hue had actually uttered those words...

He said RAGM’s claim for malicious falsehood based on the two articles must also fall as RAGM failed to show that it suffered any special damage as a result of publication of the articles.

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Document
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Auteur: Federal Court of Malaysia

[full text of the judgment]

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Article
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Auteur: KiniTV

A five-member Federal Court bench today unanimously dismissed the appeal by Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM) against Bukit Koman resident and activist Shirley Hue Shieh Lee over two articles published regarding residents' comments over fears of their safety.

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Article
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Auteur: Qishin Tariq, The Star Online

The Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) defamation suit against activist Hue Shieh Lee continues as the Federal Court has agreed to hear the case...Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif granted RAGM leave to appeal against the earlier courts' findings on Monday (Oct 16), ruling there was merit to its application.  

The panel that included Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop and Justice Balia Yusof Wahi also unanimously allowed the company's four questions of law. Lawyers Tan Sri Cecil Abraham, Sunil Abraham and Daniel Chua represented the company, while Gurdial Singh Nijar acted for Hue. 

RAGM had initiated the defamation case against Hue, who was then the vice-chairperson of Ban Cyanide Action Group, over statements made against the company's gold mine near her village in Bukit Koman, Pahang.

 

 
 

 

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Document
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Auteur: Malaysia Court of Appeal

[full text of the judgment]

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Article
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Auteur: Malaysiakini

A Bukit Koman villager has won her case against the defamation suit filed by Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) against the Ban Cyanide Action Group (BCAC).

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled today that RAGM failed to prove that BCAC vice-chairperson Hue Shieh Lee's statement against the gold mine was of malicious falsehood.

In handing out the 45-page judgment, High Court judge Yeoh Wee Siam also ordered the plaintiff to pay RM20,000 in costs to Shieh Lee, subject to payment of an allocatur fee of four percent of the costs.

The plaintiff must establish three elements to prove malicious falsehood in this case, namely:

  1. That the defendant has published about the plaintiff words which are false;
  2. That they were published maliciously; and
  3. That special damage has followed as the direct and natural result of their publication.

"... the plaintiff did not prove that the survey results read out by the defendant are false because the plaintiff failed to call any, or all of the 383 residents, to prove that they did not suffer from any health problems as a result of the plaintiff's use of cyanide in its operation of the gold mine.

"... the plaintiff did not call the reporter, who purportedly interviewed the defendant, as a witness to prove that the defendant had uttered or published those words.

"It follows that the issue whether the words are false does not arise," read the judgment...

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Article
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Auteur: The Star Online

Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd has withdrawn its defamation suit against activist Hue Fui How after the latter apologised in court for his allegations against the former’s gold mining operations in Raub.

Hue, 68, was the secretary for the Pahang Raub Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining Action Committee (BCAC)...

Raub Australian’s counsel Sunil Abraham read out the statement of apology before High Court Judge Yeoh Wee Siam, where Hue apologised for his remarks made during a radio interview and in an article carried by an online portal.

Hue admitted he was not aware of any justifications to statements he made in an article, Bukit Koman Mining: Why the mystery?, published on Free Malaysia Today on July 4, 2012, and in an Aug 17, 2012 interview on BFM89.9 radio’s current affairs programme.

According to the statement of apology, Raub Australian was operating a carbon-in-leach gold recovery plant at Bukit Koman under Mining Certificate 483, now known as Mining Lease 1669.

The company said the defamatory statements had arisen when concerns raised by the residents of Kampung Bukit Koman through BCAC were published in various media.

Apart from Hue, Raub Australian Gold Mining had earlier filed suits against other activists – namely BCAC chairman Wong Kim Hoon and vice-chairman Shirley Hue Shieh Lee, as well as Malaysiakini and Free Malaysia Today...

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