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‘Amend or explain Section 114A’

 | August 16, 2012

Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan says the government has to either amend Section 114A or ensure people fully understood it.

PETALING JAYA: BN’s Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan feels that the government has two options to deal with the controversial amendment to Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950.

“We have to either amend it or ensure people understand the amendment because there is a massive misunderstanding and resistance among people.

“We have to heed Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s advice when he instructed the Cabinet to discuss the amendment on Section 114A on Tuesday,” said Abdul Rahman.

Najib, on micro-blogging site Twitter, said: “Whatever we do we must put the people first.”

He added that there was no point in having a law which is resisted by the people.

“People have to accept the law, otherwise it would not be effective,” he said.

Abdul Rahman also said that in the event the Cabinet decides to maintain the amendment as it is, more explanation is needed until the people fully understood its implications.

He was commenting on a Bernama report quoting Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim who said that the Cabinet would review but not amend section 114A.

English daily, The Sun, meanwhile reported that Rais as saying that the provisions in the amendment do not provide for presumption of guilt.

“Finality is still with the courts. The amendment is to secure effectiveness of the recent legislations – Security Offences Act, Peaceful Assembly Act, Penal Code (Amendment) Act and other laws.

“The accused person does not lose and still maintains his right to challenge the prosecution’s presumption by establishing his own facts and circumstances,” said Rais.

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.

Reporting on the same matter, another English daily, The Star, quoted Rais as dismissing any possibility of amending the section.

“Once it is officially passed, to do something now is an afterthought,” said Rais.

Libellous postings

Section 114A came about following an amendment to the Evidence Act 1950 which was passed in April and gazetted in July this year.

The amendment enables law enforcement officials to hold publishers of websites accountable for seditious, defamatory or libellous postings even if they are not the actual authors of the content.

Those affected include people who own, administer or edit websites open to public contributors such as forums or blogs, people who provide web-hosting services on Internet access and people who own the computers or mobile devices used to publish content online.

This resulted in the “Stop 114A campaign” by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) on Tuesday which was backed by organisations such as the Bar Council.

The opposition to the amendment dominated miro blogging site Twitter and social networking site, Facebook.

CIJ executive director Masjaliza Hamzah said that their immediate action now is to meet with Deputy Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and other like-minded BN leaders who would be able to raise the issue within the BN.

Saifuddin made an offer to raise the issue on behalf of various groups opposing the amendment at a forum entitled “114A Evidence Act – The End of Internet Freedom?”organised by the Bar Council’s young lawyers committee on Saturday.

Masjaliza also said that the move against the amendment is not a one-off campaign.

“We support the idea that it needs to be taken offline. There will be more online and offline actions as the campaign will not end until the amendment is repealed,” she said

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who was among the thousands who took part in the online campaign, meanwhile, was angered by Rais’ announcement.

“Here’s the thing, plain and simple: You don’t screw the Internet because it will screw you back,” Syahredzan wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Hulu Selangor MP P Kamalanathan, who was among three backbenchers besides Rahman Dahlan and Rembau MP and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who raised concerns over the amendment, preferred to give Rais the benefit of the doubt.

“Let them review first and let us take this one step at a time,” he said.

Khairy, when contacted, however, declined to comment.


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