Its chairman Christopher Leong (pic) said public officials were accountable to the people who have entrusted them with positions of public office and responsibility.
"The duties of good governance and accountability should demand the public official be able to endure the full brunt of free speech," he said in a statement today.
Leong said the prime minister and Umno president should not use civil defamation action against criticism, whether substantiated or otherwise.
"This sets a bad precedent and sends the wrong message," he said.
He said public officials, especially those holding high public offices, and political parties should not resort to defamation suits as an answer to criticism or comment.
“They should accept such adverse comments, no matter how vitriolic, obnoxious or untrue. So long as it does not affect the person in his or her private sphere,” he said.
“The prime minister should have taken the opportunity to engage in public explanation, debate, education, counterarguments and vindication by conduct in answer to untruths and as the means of redressing any alleged injury to reputation.”
He said if the comments and issues complained of were sufficiently important for correction, Najib should reply in the public arena, and let public opinion be the judge of the truth.
Leong urged the prime minister and Umno to withdraw their suit against Malaysiakini and its editors.
On June 3, Najib's lawyers served Malaysiakini with a writ of summons and a statement of claim to the news portal’s administrators at its Bangsar office.
Najib named Malaysiakini publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, editor-in-chief Steven Gan and chief editor Fathi Aris Omar as defendants.
The other plaintiff in the suit is Umno executive-secretary Datuk Abdul Rauf Yusoh.
The plaintiffs said that the compilation of readers' comments in two "Yoursay" articles published on May 14 – namely "A case of the PM reaping what he sows" and "How much will Najib spend to keep Terengganu?" – were defamatory.
The defendants said they would file their defence. The High Court has fixed June 18 for case management.
The Malaysiakini articles comprised comments critical of Najib and Umno by readers regarding the short-lived Terengganu political crisis where three Umno assemblymen, including former menteri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said, became independents and then returned to the party a day later. – June 7, 2014.