Blogger and Google Sued for 6 Million Ringgit, for Scathing Review of Sabah Restaurant

Oh dear.  That was my first thought when I saw the headlines in the Straits Times. Is this even possible? So free opinions are not allowed?  I was quite dismayed. I too comment on meals in a bid to record my experiences and share what I think is good or not. Money is hard to come by and we want to only spend it on places which are worth the while. If we can share what we know we can prevent others from wasting their hard earned money. But it’s still just an opinion.

Before I eat at an expensive restaurant I always check out food bloggers’ reviews first, and if they are bad I tend to look for something else. But I usually rely on not just one review, but a few. If the case is won, it might be the end of brutally honest blogger reviews.

It’s hard to find the original post, but I found this link with a capture of the post at this forum page. What do you think? Was it too harsh? I guess the comments do sound pretty extreme, but aren’t people are entitled to their opinion. To me a blog is like a shared journal and not the same as something reported in the newspapers or magazines. People go to blogs because they want a personal opinion. They want to hear it warts and all.

The restaurant is Jothy’s Fish Head Curry and Banana Leaf located in Sabah. Ironically the whole hulabaloo makes me want to visit the place to try it for myself. This negative publicity is turning out to be good publicity me thinks. The rice and dishes in the photo look quite appealing to me and remind of a banana lead restaurant I tried in KL. I am also curious to know how many other Fish Head restaurants the blogger has tried in order to offer a comparison. Some types of food can be an acquired taste. Sometimes food I don’t like is due to my own idiosyncrasies and preference for certain tastes, but I still like to share what I think.


{Image: The Star}

Jothys Sdn Bhd director Tharumaraj Sivaperumal filed a RM6mil civil suit at the Kota Kinabalu High Court, naming blogger Poh Huai Bin as the first defendant and California-based Google Inc as the second defendant.

The suit filed on Monday is over allegedly defamatory statements made about Jothys Fish Head Curry Restaurant here which was posted in May last year by Poh, who is originally from Sibu, Sarawak and now resides in Kuala Lumpur.

The company, which is represented by counsel Marcel Jude Joseph, is seeking exemplary or punitive damages and an order to restrain Poh from defaming the restaurant on the Internet.

Google seems to have removed the blog The blog might have been down due to super high traffic and it’s now up again. It’s called Sixth Seal. Profile of blogger Huai Bin can be seen on Nuffnang Malaysia.


{Image: Nuffnang Malaysia}

I’m 27 years old though I look nowhere near my actually chronological age. I kinda like that, it’s nice to have people thinking of you as in the early twenties instead of pushing the big 30. I started my blog while I was in uni in Australia back in April 2002. There were only a couple of blogs then, most now defunct, and I wanted to start one with photos in every post.

Back then, digicams were rather expensive items and ADSL wasn’t even widely available in most parts of Malaysia. I got a Nikon 775 and started the habit of taking photos everyday wherever I go. I write about everything from the mundane daily life of a student in Melbourne to events and travel reports.

I write very candidly in my blog about my personal life and am one of the totally public and non-anonymous bloggers. I give out my personal cell phone number on the blog and anyone who does a whois on my domain will find out where I live. I’m one of the bloggers who is not afraid to show the world that I’m a person “with feelings too”

According to his twitter account, the blogger is taking it in his stride and is thankful for the support he is getting. He only heard about the case himself 13 hours ago.

You can read details of the case at The Star, a Malaysian newspaper.

It also made the headlines of Singapore’s The Straits Times.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore helps me survive the mid-life crisis
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11 Responses to Blogger and Google Sued for 6 Million Ringgit, for Scathing Review of Sabah Restaurant

  1. kirsten says:

    It’s pretty stupid that this restaurant would try to sue for an opinion, because that’s really his opinion on the blog. But this case is really a private one between a person and an establishment, and could go either way. It’s when it’s the government trying to clamp down on online media and blogs when it REALLY becomes an infringement on freedom of expression. And with the amendments that the Malaysian PM wants to make to the PPPA (can’t remember exactly what it stands for but it’s Malaysia’s version of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act) that would stretch to online media, requiring online media to register and get licenses – the Internet could get a lot more restricted in Malaysia. And once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before it happens in Singapore too (TOC already gazetted!)

    • bookjunkie says:

      that would really suck. I hope it doesn’t happen. It would be a total dampener to bloggers to have to watch every word we type. I would feel totally shackled.

      • kirsten says:

        I agree that bloggers should have some sort of accountability (apparently in Germany they are subject to the same laws and ethics code that journalists are) – but this would be ridiculous. It would be nothing more than a government trying to clamp down on dissenting voices.

  2. This certainly is crazy! I can just see the court room now…..all the jurors getting a taste of the food that Huai Bin said was bad so they can see if he was out of line with his comments!
    It certainly is not fair to be sued for your opinion!

    • bookjunkie says:

      I feel that way too. In a strange, twisted way they are flattering the blogger, because they are saying that this guy’s one piece has generated so much response and he had so much of a following that his one negative review has adversely affected the business of the restaurant.

  3. jannatwrites says:

    Hmmm, I’d be curious how this turns out. If the bad things reported in the review weren’t true, I can see the basis for a suit. However, if it was all factual, I’d say that the blogger has a right to his opinion. And that’s my opinion 🙂

    • bookjunkie says:

      I’ll be watching this story too. It will affect bloggers in Asia. If this restaurant wins the case others may follow suit and that would just put a muzzle on bloggers which would totally suck.

  4. whatsaysyou says:

    Oh my goodness, this is just shocking. But where I am based, it is just laughable in the Western society if this piece of news start to surface on the 6pm television news screens and tomorrow’s morning newspaper. How can someone throw a fit by deciding to sue someone for giving an honest critique on his restaurant? That is just silly if you ask me. If the fellow wins the case, it will just, how should I put it, show that giving brutally honest opinions is not okay anymore. That is wrong and it is only going to take away people’s freedom of speech and thought.

  5. 365days2play says:

    The review was not the harshest I’ve seen. Lots of people out there do use words like “not fresh”, “tastes like cardboard” etc…heck I think I’ve said similar things too. If he can get sued, I think some other bloggers (shan’t name names here) would have been sued to the moon already!
    I’m not so sure if it was the right move of Jothy’s to sue. For one, even more people now know how lousy the place is. 2ndly, it’s not as if they were doing a roaring trade (judging from the photos). May people probably know the truth already.

    But then again, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the restaurant (or any restaurant for the matter). Assuming the restaurant is pretty good and they just happened to have a bad fish day when the blogger came along, don’t you think a permanent bad food review is too harsh a penalty? Chefs do sometimes have bad days unfortunately.
    But I guess if we were to view it in another aspect, where supposing the restaurant is normally pretty good and just happened to go wrong with this blogger, the penalty of a permanent bad review just because

    • bookjunkie says:

      I would love to read a harsher review….somehow when people are brutally honest it’s more interesting. It’s just seems to be dangerous to be brutally honest on the web these days.

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