The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) announced today that Malaysian activists, bloggers and opposition politicians are taking part in an ‘internet blackout’ as part of their protest against the Evidence Act, an amendment passed by government that they say threatens free speech online.
The CIJ said earlier today that those taking part would replace their home pages with black screens and a pop-up window with the message of the campaign.
The implications of the Section 114A Evidence Act, which was passed in April this year mean that any internet or smart phone user is regarded as the publisher of online content, unless stated and proven otherwise. Additionally, legal action can be taken against any web host and provider of a wi-fi network if defamatory content is sent through their systems.
The CIJ says: “This presumption of guilt goes against a fundamental principle of justice – innocent until proven guilty — and disproportionately burdens the average person who may not have the resources to defend himself in court.”
The CIJ and prominent members of the Malaysian internet community have asked that the law be changed or fully abolished and have accused the Malaysian coalition government of attacking freedom of speech.
The government promised in 1990 not to censor the internet in order to gain technological investment, but have since been accused of blocking websites.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was elected in 2009, made promises during his campaign to overthrow oppressive laws. But government critics have said that his reforms make no improvement on the previous laws.