KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 7): The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) is calling upon Internet users to take part in an Internet Blackout Day to create awareness among Internet users about the negative impact of an amendment on online expression.
Scheduled for Aug 14, the move is "part of Malaysian civil society's latest effort in campaigning against the newly-introduced Section 114A to the Evidence Act 1950", it said in a release on Tuesday, adding 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.
"On Aug 14, internet users who visit participating websites will see a pop-up window which contains the message of the campaign. In addition, Netizens can change their profile pictures/avatar on Twitter and Facebook to black or use downloadable images provided by CIJ," it said.
"The objective of this action is 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," said CIJ executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah in the release.
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 July 31 by de facto law Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
CIJ said, "The amendment has raised concerns from many parties such as lawyers, activists and Internet-based businesses. 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. 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," it said, adding that 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.
"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," it said.
CIJ said the Internet Blackout Day has received positive response from the Internet community, with businesses who rely on the Internet — such as auction store lelong.com.my, online forum cari.com.my and entertainment portal gua.com.my — having signed up to show support.
"Other key supporters include online news sites such as Malaysiakini and Digital News Asia, bloggers such as Niki Cheong and Nat Tan. This initiative is also supported by civil society organisations such as [human rights organisation] Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) and Women's Aid Organisation," it said, concluding that more information was available at the following links:
1. The official
The Internet Blackout Day is part of CIJ's campaign which began on May 31, when it launched an online petition to call on the government to withdraw the Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act. The petition, which received more than 3300 signatures, was handed over to the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong in Parliament on June 26. CIJ had also organised a public forum on June 12 entitled "Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?".
CIJ is a non-profit organisation that aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all peoples will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information. It may be contacted via email or 03-4023 0772.