By Glenn Chapman, AFP

LAS VEGAS–Sony chief Kazuo Hirai called the devastating hack on the company ��vicious and malicious,�� in his first public comments about the cyberattack that derailed the launch of controversial comedy ��The Interview.�� Speaking Monday at a press event on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Hirai thanked supporters who stood by the company in the face of the massive cyber assault, including employees and movie-goers who saw the film when it finally hit theaters. ��Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association �X those are important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business,�� Hirai said. His comments were his first public statements about the attack on the Japanese company’s film and television unit. ��We are proud of partners who stood up against extortionist efforts by criminals who attacked Sony,�� Hirai said. Sony employees, he added, ��were victims of one of the most vicious and malicious cyberattacks we have known, certainly in recent history.�� ��The Interview�� is now showing at 580 independent theaters in the U.S., in addition to online platforms, according to Hirai. ��I want to thank all the partners who made this possible, media who supported the launch, and those who have gone out to see the movie,�� Hirai said. ��Thank you for being part of that great event,�� he added, before ending with a quip referring to another Sony Pictures Entertainment film released during the year-end holidays.

��Annie is a great movie as well,�� he said.