Malaysia’s highest court on Friday found news portal Malaysiakini in contempt of court over comments posted by readers deemed offensive to the judiciary, in a case widely seen as a test of media freedom in the Southeast Asian nation. Last year, Malaysia ’s attorney general filed an application to cite Malaysiakini and editor-in-chief Steven Gan for contempt of court over five comments posted by readers on its website that it said undermined public confidence in the judiciary. In a six to one decision on Friday, a panel in the Federal Court ruled that Malaysiakini held full responsibility for its website, including whatever is published. The panel, however, found Gan not guilty of the offence. The court ordered the site to pay a 500,000 ringgit (US$123,680) fine by next week. Echoing Hong Kong protests, Malaysians have ‘five demands’ for king It is unlikely Malaysiakini will be able to appeal the verdict since the case was heard before the country’s highest court. Judge Rohana Yusuf, delivering the verdict, told the Federal Court in the administrative capital Putrajaya that the case would “attract worldwide attention”, with some believing it had “threatened media independence”. But she went on: “While freedom of opinion and expression is protected by the federal constitution, it must be... within the bounds permissible by law. And the law does not tolerate contempt of court as it undermines the system of judiciary.” She said the comments on the site were “reprehensible” and involved “allegations of corruption which were unproven and untrue”. Malaysia’s Muhyiddin taking flak again over Covid-19 double standards Malaysiakini and Gan have maintained they could not be held responsible and the offending comments had been immediately removed after they were contacted by police. In January, Gan said reporters should not “give up” in the face of what he described as “harassment” by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government. He said in the two decades since he founded Malaysiakini, its journalists had been declared traitors, faced debilitating cyberattacks, kicked out of press conferences, arrested, and raided by the police. Malaysia has moved up the World Press Freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders in recent years. But rights groups have said freedom of speech and freedom of the press face renewed pressure after an unexpected change to a Muhyiddin government in March last year. The government had denied that it was clamping down on media freedom.