Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
PETALING JAYA -- The 2012 Evidence Act has already gone into effect from July 31 this year, with the authorities given the power to prosecute any web user publishing irresponsible remarks online with a pseudonym.
Minister of information, communications, and culture Rais Yatim said, any individual publishing seditious, insulting, or disseminating slanderous or fictitious remarks, be it in a dialogue, conversation, telephone conversation or postings on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, causing inconveniences and disruption to the lives of other people, is considered to have violated the law and could be liable to criminal suit.
He said, in a multiracial and multicultural country like Malaysia, any topic touching on tacky religious issues may jeopardise the otherwise harmonious inter-racial relation and could pose hazards to national security. Consequently, it is imperative for the government to look into this problem seriously and take the necessary prevention.
During an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily, Rais Yatim said the situation in this country is still within control despite a gradual rise in the severity of online gangsterism.
"We are not going to trade our prosperity and harmony established over the past half a century just because of the mindless acts of a handful of irresponsible people."
After the amendment to the Evidence Act, upon the identification of an anonymous individual as the source of a publication, the person will be liable to legal actions for any unlawful content published by him or her.
He reminded web users to stop thinking that they are free from legal liabilities in the cyberspace without taking into consideration the feelings of other people. This is because any act that is against the laws in the real world will remain unlawful when committed over the cyberspace.
"The government is constantly keeping up its effort to stem such culture of online gangsterism. Other than amending the relevant acts and organising courtesy campaigns, the Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC) also keeps reminding the public of the various issues that could arise."
According to the amended Section 114 (a) of the Evidence Act, anyone using a pseudonym to publish irresponsible remarks online could be prosecuted if he or she is identified as the source of the publication.
It states that "a person whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner, host, administrator, editor or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates to publish or re-publish the publication is presumed to have published or re-published the contents of the publication unless the contrary is proved."
In addition, "a person who is registered with a network service provider as a subscriber of a network service on which any publication originates from is presumed to be the person who published or re-published the publication unless the contrary is proved."
Rais said the ultimate objective of amending the Evidence Act is to serve as a warning to the public, not to deliberately restrict the freedom or penalise any web user.
He felt that online gangsterism is not exclusive to any specific community, adding that these are normally fanatics with headstrong characters who would resort to the dissemination of slanderous and fictitious information under an unstable, emotional or irrational state of mind.
"Just imagine what our society will become of if anyone can talk or spread instigating remarks as he wishes online."
Rais said some of their inciting acts have gone contrary to our social values and moral culture and are also prohibited by our religions, adding that the Rukunegara stresses the rule of law and courtesy and morality.
"Unfortunately a handful of people have abused the freedom provided by the government to act imprudently trying to create havoc in our society. Many web users have overlooked the principles of rule of law and courtesy and morality when they are hooked on the Internet."