Changes to Evidence Act will ‘chill ICT growth’

In my effort to lobby for the withdrawal of the Evidence (Amedment) (No. 2) Act 2012, The Edge Daily reported the following:-

Changes to Evidence Act will ‘chill ICT growth’

by on Thursday, 28 June 2012 09:00

KUALA LUMPUR: The recent amendments to the Evidence Act 1950 will have a “chilling effect” on the country’s development of information and communication technologies, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said.

The media watchdog group made this statement when handing over a petition against the recent amendments to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk VK Liew in Parliament on Tuesday.

The petition, bearing more than 3,300 signatures, called on the government to withdraw Section 114A of the Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2012 because it threatens freedom of expression online and presumes the guilt rather than innocence of Internet users publishing content online, CIJ said in a statement.

CIJ director Jac SM Kee said: “The law is vague and broad enough that it has caused a lot of fear. Majority of Malaysians will err on the side of caution.” The presumption of guilt also disproportionately burdens the majority of Internet users in Malaysia who are not very tech-savvy, the statement said.

“What can an ordinary Internet user do to prove it wasn’t them who published something online when the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission [MCMC] itself sometimes says it doesn’t have the technical resources to find the real culprits?” she told Liew. Liew, however, said many fears are misplaced and agreed that more dialogue is needed. He also thanked the petitioners for presenting their views.

The amendment also makes Internet intermediaries — parties that provide online community forums, blogging and hosting services — liable for content that is published through its services. This has implications on businesses such as eateries that provide free WiFi. 

“If a kopitiam owner is liable for all the traffic that goes through its WiFi, it places a lot of burden on them, in terms of monetary and human resources, to either conduct surveillance or stop providing WiFi altogether,” Kee said.

Joining CIJ at the handover was A Asohan, executive editor of Digital News Asia, and Foong Cheng Leong, co-chair of Kuala Lumpur Bar Information Technology Committee.

Speaking to reporters later, Asohan said: “The fact that MPs from the both sides of the political divide did not understand the wider ramifications of this amendment shows there is a need for greater discussion.

We need more legal brains on it and feedback from the industry and others like Multimedia Development Corp [MDeC] and MCMC. Given that the digital transformation programme will be announced soon, this will be a major issue.”

The controversial amendment was rushed through during April’s parliamentary meeting which saw a raft of laws passed without debate. The amendment made news shortly after when concerns were raised by civil society over its detrimental impact and broad reach, the statement said.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on June 28, 2012.


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