|‘Stop114a’ draws online attention|
|Wednesday, 15 August 2012 08:09am|
©The Sun Daily (Used by permission)
by Michelle Chun
PETALING JAYA (Aug 14, 2012): Internet users rose up in arms against Section 114a of the Evidence Act today, flooding the online world with the catchphrase "Stop114a" during Malaysia's first ever Internet Blackout Day.
The blackout also garnered international attention with Wikileaks and BBC picking up on the issue yesterday, while the Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom) also echoed the need for a review of the law.
In a statement to Digital News Asia, Pikom president Shaifubahrim Saleh said the amendment may "appear to lower the bar for the prosecution of potentially innocent parties".
"The average individual or even some corporations may not have the resources to defend or prove against such allegations or liability," he added.
Meanwhile, in a tweet from London at 7.48pm Malaysian time today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said: "I have asked the cabinet to discuss section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950. Whatever we do we must put people first."
Before noon today, Stop114a was trending at No 4 locally in Twitterverse, and hundreds of websites and internet users blacked out their profiles or uploaded a pop-up message detailing information about the controversial law.
Many Facebook users uploaded Stop114a images as profile pictures while prominent figures, from politicians to bloggers, went offline for the day in protest of the law.
News portals, community forums, non-government organisations (NGOs) and business sites also joined in, either by shutting down their sites for the day or uploading the pop-up for users to view.
Section 114a of the Evidence Act, which was inserted through the Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2012 passed in both houses in April, explains presumption of fact in publication.
Under the law, internet users are automatically presumed guilty for any content posted through their registered networks, handheld devices, blogs and web portals. If this happens, the onus is on the owners to prove their innocence.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, in defending the amendment, said it would ensure people to act with greater responsibility when on the internet.
However, many criticised the law as a damper on freedom of expression and deterrence to the opportunity for anonymity online, which is necessary for a free and open society.
Internet Blackout Day was organised by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) following its petition for the amendment to be withdrawn.
The petition received 3,300 signatures and was handed to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk V.K. Liew last month.
CIJ executive director Masjaliza Hamzah, when contacted, said response from netizens has been astounding.
"We're ecstatic and really happy with the progress. It's gone beyond our expectations."
On comments by internet users that such an initiative would not help withdraw the law, Masjaliza said this was an awareness campaign.
"Before this, how many people knew about Section 114a?
The campaign has managed to capture a big chunk of internet users in Malaysia, and any steps taken after this, such as putting pressure on lawmakers to withdraw this bad law, will have a bigger pool of people showing support," she said.
Politicians from both sides of the divide have called for a review of the law.
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