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Internet Blackout Day a ‘success’

 | August 15, 2012

The campaign's organisers will continue with its online protest until the unpopular amendment is withdrawn.

UPDATED

PETALING JAYA: Yesterday’s Internet Blackout Day, as far as the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) – its organisers – are concerned, was a success.

CIJ executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah told FMT that the response to the campaign – created to highlight a unpopular amendment to the Evidence Act 1950 – was phenomenal.

“In terms of response to the campaign, it’s just phenomenal,” she said, conceding however that it was not as “huge” as other online protests have been in the past.

“The catalysts are the websites… and the business that supported it… [but] I think the credit should go to netizens for making themselves aware of it,” Masjaliza added.

Nevertheless, she noted that the campaign – which saw many websites either going offline or hosting black pop-ups messages – helped to not only create public awareness, but also pressured the government to think twice about the amendment.

In a Twitter message, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said that he asked the Cabinet to discuss the Section 114A amendment to the Evidence Act. “Whatever we do, we must put [the] people first,” he said.

More than 45,000 people have “liked” the official “Stop114A” Facebook page.

Citizens and politicians from both sides of the political divide have criticised the amendment, which can make a netizen responsible for online content, unless they can prove otherwise.

It can also hold those who operate online websites and even business who give free WiFi access, liable for possible defamatory content on the Internet.

The law was passed in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara earlier this year, before being gazetted on July 31.

Masjaliza said that though Internet Blackout Day was over, CIJ was going to continue the fight against the amendment.

“It’s not just about section 114A. There are larger implications, including a lawmaking process that is deeply flawed, that enables it to be passed without much debate and consultation with stakeholders,” she said.

Asked about CIJ’s next step, Masjaliza said CIJ was going to meet with its partners over this, with the final goal being the withdrawal of the amendment.

Yet another flip-flop

Meanwhile, Pakatan Rakyat leaders said Najib’s decision to review the amendment had made it to another of the prime minister’s list of “flip-flop” policies and exposed the weakness of his administration.

Putrajaya was accused of bulldozing the law in the April parliamentary sitting in what was seen as a desperate election push by Najib.

PAS Kuala Krai MP Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli, speaking to reporters here, said this was another example of hastily passing legislation without proper study. PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah echoed the view.

“It shows that no transparent discussions were carried out. The announcement of a review was made amidst the nationwide protest.

“Pakatan reiterates its united stand in opposing the amendment and urges the government to take note of the people’s opposition to the new legislation,” she said.


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