KUALA LUMPUR: 14 August is selected as Malaysia’s Internet Blackout Day which is a part of the campaign run by Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia to against the newly introduced Section 114A to the Evidence Act 1950. On 14th August, internet users who visit participating websites will see a pop-up window which contains the message of the campaign. In addition, Netizens will change their profile pictures/avatar on Twitter and Facebook to black or use downloadable images provided by CIJ.
Recently, Section 114A, otherwise known as Evidence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2012, was passed by Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara in April this year and was gazetted on 31st July by de facto law Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. Under Section 114A, an Internet user is deemed the publisher of any online content unless proven otherwise. It also makes individuals and those who administer, operate or provide spaces for online community forums, blogging and hosting services, liable for content published through its services.
In addition, the new amendment was passed despite the fact that existing laws — including the Computer Crimes Act 1997, Sedition Act 1948, Defamation Act 1957, and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 — have been used to arrest and charge in court those who commit defamation, criminal defamation, fraud and sedition online.
According to CIJ, this presumption of guilt goes against a fundamental principle of justice – innocent until proven guilty — and disproportionately burdens the average person who may not have the resources to defend himself in court. The amendment’s wide reach will affect all internet users, websites which provide space for online comments, and any business premises which give free Wi-Fi access to their customers.
CIJ also added that the amendment has raised concerns from many parties such as lawyers, activists and Internet-based businesses. The Internet Blackout Day has received positive response from the Internet community including Lelong.com.my, Cari.com.my, Gua.com.my, MalaysiaKini, Digital News Asia, SUARAM, Women’s Aid Organization and bloggers.
CIJ’s executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah said that Malaysia’s first Internet Blackout Day takes its cue from similar efforts in the United States and New Zealand in support of internet freedom. “This campaign is aimed to create awareness among Internet users about the negative impact of the amendment on online expression. It also as a platform for Netizens to urge the government to withdraw the amendment which together with a few other laws, was passed hastily in Parliament in the April 2012 sitting,” Masjaliza added.
The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free where all people will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information.