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The True Problem of S114A

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

814 Internet Blackout Day was another Bersih rally in the cyber world. The blackout action was being welcomed greatly by NGOs and internet users. The Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ) again stressed that they are not urging the internet users to go offline but to spread more news to their friends and families.

We can foresee that the internet technology might be abused and caused unwanted chaos and even cyber criminals to the others. The Government desperately passed the enactment of S114A Evidence Act without consulting stakeholders and related bodies. At this juncture, it is vital to understand the true problem of S114A besides knowing the Government trying to govern and control the freedom of expression in cyber world further.

S114A stated, it presumes the internet users guilty until proven innocent. In other word, this section holds the internet users accountable for publishing content online which deals with allegedly illicit, harmful, seditious or defamatory content. Firstly, it is undeniable that publishing such harmful contents definitely guilty in terms of law. We have to admit that such person would need to be liable and judged before the justice.

However, the authority might hold average internet users liable and they bear the burden of proof to prove that they are not guilty. This bill had opposed to the golden thread of prosecution bears the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt. In such case, all internet users are guilty until proven innocent which is clearly against the spirit of law.

In most of the criminals the prosecution always bear the heavier burden to prove the accused is guilty and to be liable for their wrongful actions. Criminals involving heavy punishment such as fine, imprisonment or even capital punishment. Due to the authority is accessible to rich resources and thus it is fair and just for them to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt and send the accused for proportionate punishment.

Yes, all parties agreed that S114A threatens the right to freedom of expression further while those who providing web hosting service, own online forums and online discussion site, bloggers and even mobile computer and smartphone users are classified as accountable users under this section.

To a certain extent, I agree if the Government would like to control internet freedom to prevent defamatory and harmful materials being published deliberately and intentionally but not by enacting such Act that creates presumption on any internet users are guilty unless contrary is proven.

Both Barisan and Pakatan’s MPs not agreeable to this statutory intervention and Prime Minister has instructed the Cabinet members to discuss on this matter (via twitter?). However it is upset that our Cabinet refused to review and claimed it is a matter of interpretation.

Further, what I concern is the quality and critical thinking of our MPs in passing or objecting an enactment of law in Dewan Rakyat. Due to our party whip system our MPs would only “yes” to any proposed bill and this would cause problematic scenario for sure.

As such, the agenda of reviewing our MPs’ performance and portfolio is more important and crucial. This is the true problem behind the legislation of S114A.

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