|'Change will spawn new ICT culture'|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 09:24am|
©Malay Mail (Used by permission)
by T.K. Letchumy Tamboo
CHANGES to the Evidence Act 1950 will create a new information and communications technology (ICT) culture, says Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk VK Liew.
"This new culture is where all ICT users will have to be disciplined and made to be responsible for what they say, write or post in any form of publications, such as blogs, texts and newspaper articles," he told The Malay Mail yesterday.
Liew said this following reactions from lawyers, restaurant owners and the general public alike that the provision, provided through the insertion of Section 114A into the Act that was bulldozed through both houses of Parliament in its last meeting without debate, was unfair and could halt the country's ICT development.
He said the Defamation Act had always been in place even before independence, which punish those who defame others including ICT users who make slanderous and libelous statements.
"Unwittingly, many of us receive forwarded messages or articles, which, in turn, get forwarded to thousands of people. Before we realise it, the whole community will believe in lies and slanderous statements. Then rumours start to spread.
"In the end, the intended victim and his or her family will suffer while the person who started the whole thing is laughing at the misery caused.
"To me the extension of the law in the Evidence Act is timely to protect those innocent victims who have been slandered to the hilt by so many irresponsible and vicious bloggers who are out there to cause pain and misery to their intended victims."
Liew also denied there was a need to repeal the amendment, especially after several quarters, including the Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ), called on the government to withdraw Section 114A as it threatened freedom of expression online and presumed the guilt rather than innocence of internet users publishing content online.
"There is no such necessity. It is obvious, that many, including the CIJ, have misplaced fear about the amendments mainly because of their lack of understanding of the law.
"The presumption under Section 114A like many other presumptions found in the main Section 114 (a) to (o) and other Acts, such as the Dangerous Drugs Act, are all rebuttable.
"The burden is only on a balance of probability. These presumptions will only 'kick-in' after the prosecution has made out its case against the accused.
"The accused is then called to enter his or her defence. In such a situation, the accused needs only to raise a reasonable doubt to earn an acquittal."
Liew said the burden to prove a criminal case rested with the prosecution from the beginning to the end and the burden is on beyond reasonable doubt which is heavier than balance of probability.
"The burden of proof on the prosecution has never changed even with the recent amendment of the EA.
The argument by the CIJ and certain quarters that the amendments shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused is a complete fallacy and wrong in law."
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