Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New laws a blot on Internet freedom | Free Malaysia Today

New laws a blot on Internet freedom

G Vinod | October 2, 2012
US-based Freedom House says Malaysia risks further decline due to its latest preventive laws.
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s Internet freedom has worsened as a result of the recently passed preventive laws, said US-based Freedom House in a report released earlier this week.

In a study conducted in 47 countries between January 2011 and May 2012, Freedom House categorised Malaysia as “partly free”.

The report, titled “Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media”, also studied countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Malaysia risks further decline due to amendments to the Evidence Act, apart from the consistent cyber attacks on prominent news portals and detention of bloggers,” said the report.

In July, Parliament gazetted an amendment to the Evidence Act allowing authorities to charge owners of news portal or blogs for statements deemed as defamatory or offensive.

Even if they were not responsible for the postings of the comments or statements, under the amendments, the news portals or blog owners would have to prove their innocence in court.

Many civil society movements criticised the amendments, saying it runs contrary to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Freedom House said that the newly minted Securities Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 is also of concern as it would allow authorities to intercept communication without a court order.

“The broadly-worded amendment to the Penal Code criminalising any activity ‘detrimental to parliamentary democracy’ could be used to criminalise politically-sensitive speech.

“Furthermore, poor privacy protection would cause Internet users to be vulnerable to these restrictive laws,” the report said.

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