By Debra Chong
Asst News Editor
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Senator Gan Ping Sieu wants Putrajaya to review a new law that threatens to curb freedom of expression on the Internet as various Malaysian organisations nationwide — including the Malaysian Bar — went offline on Internet Blackout Day today.
The MCA vice-president is the third lawmaker from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) to throw his weight behind a nationwide campaign lobbying Putrajaya to remove Section 114A of the Evidence Act of 1950, which makes even coffee shops offering free Wi-Fi services liable for any defamatory or criminal acts of customers using computers at their premises.
"I would like to call for the government to review the new amendments to Evidence Act, more specifically Section 114A, and also to take this opportunity to voice my concern over these amendments, which has culminated into a nationwide campaign to seek the government to review the latest amendments passed hastily in the previous Parliament sitting.
"This new law will cause hardships to innocent agents caught up in a case of Internet abuse, such as hacking, identity thefts or even pranks such as 'Tweet-jacking', as well as Internet service providers like cyber cafes, coffee shops, shopping malls and many other public spaces," Gan (picture) said in a statement.
The new law presumes that any registered user of network services is the publisher of a publication sent from a computer linked to that network service, unless the contrary is proved.
The section also provides that any “person whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner, host, administrator, editor or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates to publish or re-publish the publication is presumed to have published or re-published the contents of the publication unless the contrary is proved.”
Gan suggested the federal government replace the existing clause with an alternative that require Internet service agents to provide full cooperation to enforcement agencies to assist investigations into cases of cyber abuse instead of imposing "presumptions of guilt" on those running the websites or those who owned the hardware.
He said there was a need for the government to come up with new measures to combat these Internet abusers who hide behind a fake identity to defame or incite hatred through racist remarks online, but admitted the new law was unable to just that.
"At this point in time, Section 114A of the Evidence Act does not seem to be able to fulfil this purpose completely," he said.
The Bar Council had lobbied yesterday for a repeal of the law just weeks after it came into force on July 31.
Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin have added their backing to a growing chorus of protest against the new law.
“We urge members of parliament from both sides of the divide to make a bipartisan approach to the Government to take immediate steps to repeal Section 114A.
“In formulating a replacement to section 114A, we urge the government to embrace an open and transparent process for drafting suitable legislation to address the problems of anonymous cybercrimes by having public consultations with all relevant stakeholders,” the Bar Council said.
The campaign against the new law that threatens to curtail freedom of expression online here has widened with more organisations promising to take down their websites in the Internet Blackout Day tomorrow.
The Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia (CIJ) said the Bar Council has confirmed they will be taking down their website to support this while the DAP is also shutting down all its websites on August 14.
Tech-savvy DAP leader Lim Kit Siang and human rights lawyer Edmund Bon have pledged to go offline for 24 hours while others will support a pop-up to promote the Stop 114A campaign. They include Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Hishamuddin Rais (Tukar Tiub), Uppercaise, Nat Tan, Niki Cheong, Anil Netto, Juana Jaafar, Sarawak Bloggers, Fahmi Fadzil and myasylum.
The Internet Blackout Day initiative is aimed to create awareness among Internet users about the negative impact of the amendment on online expression and takes its cue from similar efforts in the United States and New Zealand in support of internet freedom.
CIJ said internet users who visit participating websites tomorrow will see a pop-up window that will contain the message of the campaign. In addition, Netizens may change their profile pictures/avatar on Twitter and Facebook to black or use downloadable images provided by CIJ.
The new law was passed by the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara in April this year and was gazetted on July 31 by de facto law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.