Malaysian websites observe blackout day

Move is to protest controversial changes in internet law

Malaysian websites on Tuesday sported black pop-ups on their pages in protest against changes to an Internet law, they say would restrict online freedom of expression.

Most of the popular websites pledged their support to the ‘Internet Black-out Day’ campaign against the controversial Evidence Act amendment (no.2) by replacing their home pages with black screens.

Black pop-ups on their main pages greeted website visitors, explaining to them about the recently gazetted Section 114(a) of the Act that makes people more accountable for statements published on websites and social networks.

Bloggers such as The Star columnist Marina Mahathir, daughter of former premier Mahathir Mohammad, also took part in the Internet Blackout Day, posting up the pop-ups and banners which plainly said “Stop 114A”
News portals Malaysiakini and Free Malaysia Today as well as the Bar Council website also took part in the online protest. Many local Internet users changed their profile pictures on their Twitter and Facebook accounts to a black ‘Stop 114A’.

The Internet Blackout Day is coordinated by the Centre of Independent Journalism as part of the “Stop 114A” campaign and urged net users to show their displeasure by blackening out their websites and profile pictures to protest the amendment, which would automatically presume guilt on Internet users for offensive postings made using their identities or devices.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council suggested that an interim taskforce should be set up to draft a White Paper and set the parameters for a review of the controversial amendments to the Evidence Act 1950.

In a statement, Bar Council chairman Lim Chee Wee said the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) should set up the taskforce to address the concerns over amendments to the Evidence Act. The amendments were passed in April and gazetted on June 31 but since then controversy has raged over Section 114(a).

Its detractors claim that the section provides the authorities more power to charge those posting comments on the Internet. Those charged would have to disprove their alleged wrongdoing although the comments might have been posted by hackers.

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