PETALING JAYA: The Bersih coalition today filed a defamation suit against the New Straits Times (NST) over a front-page article which its co-chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said was the most serious allegation against it yet.
The English-language daily had published the article under the headline Plot to destabilise the government on Sept 21, 2012.
The article claimed that Bersih, online news portal Malaysiakini, human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) Suaram and independent pollster Merdeka Center for Opinion Research were receiving foreign funding to destabilise the government.
Bersih had threatened to take legal action unless there was a retraction and an apology. However, written demands to NST to retract the article and publish Bersih's response went ignored.
The suit was filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning by Bersih's lawyer, Daniel Albert.
Bersih is seeking an unspecified sum of damages and an injunction against NST from continuing to publish the defamatory words in both its print and online editions.
The suit's plaintiffs are Bersih's 15-member steering committee while the respondents are New Straits Times Berhad and its journalist Farrah Naz Karim, who penned the article.
A notice of the suit has yet to be sent to them.
"The allegation was very serious because it talked about toppling the government," Ambiga told fz.com.
"It is the most serious allegation made against Bersih to date. And it's very damaging to Bersih because it's totally false report published on the front page of a mainstream daily.
"We know what the truth is and let me make it clear, we want to set the record straight. Such irresponsible journalism should not be let go without some kind of response. Enough is enough."
Bersih steering committee member Andrew Khoo was reported as saying that Bersih had considered the matter very carefully before deciding on this course of action.
He reportedly said the article appeared to ride along a series of articles that leveled unwarranted allegations at different NGOs.