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NO ABUSE: Section 114A of Evidence Act won’t curb freedom of expression
PUTRAJAYA: THE Attorney-General’s Chambers has allayed fears that Section 114A of the Evidence Act could be abused as a political tool or to curb freedom of expression on the Internet.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail yesterday provided the details of the law provision, including the burden of proof to be shouldered by his prosecutors, before it could even be levelled against suspects.
He said deputy public prosecutors must ensure beyond reasonable doubt that they had, among others:
SECURED strong oral evidence from witnesses;
COMPUTER logs showing that the suspect had signed in when the offending posts were made;
ACLOSED-CIRCUIT-TELEVISION camera footage of the action;
RECORDS of online transactions such as banking records;
ESTABLISHED that no other person had access to the Internet accounts and computer used by the suspect;
ESTABLISHED that the suspect is the owner who has sole access to the computer; and
SECURED documents that could link the suspect to his computer.
“Section 114A should not be seen as an amendment to curb the freedom of expression.
“This provision applies to all forms of crime where communication and direction or orders are given through the Internet or phone,” said Gani after a briefing with senior editors at the chambers’ headquarters here yesterday.
In the two-hour session, Gani said Section 114A would be used for collecting evidence and information-gathering.
He denied claims by some quarters that the amendment would be used against those who commented on blogs.
"We cannot simply charge a person just because his name appears in an article. First, the article must be offensive in nature and second, the investigation must be done properly, whether that person's name was used and if it was really him that did it," said Gani.
He added that this was because the chamber noted that a person's identity could easily be abused or manipulated.
"You cannot simply pick a name and put it to a face as many people share the same name.
"We cannot simply prosecute until we have the facts."
He said owners of online platforms must be responsible for comments posted on their websites, blogs and portals.
He also said while the burden of proof is heavy on his deputy public prosecutors (DPPs), those charged would also have a chance to defend themselves in court.
"At the end of the day, it is us (DPPs) who will have to prove our case.
"We have to prove that the accused had access to the computer and the article was uploaded from that computer. We must also have proof that he has online facilities to have done it."
Gani said Section 114A was not exclusive to Malaysia as other countries had also implemented it.
"As it is, the United Kingdom is drafting similar laws and we want to see what they are doing."
"The concern is genuine, the amendment is not targeted at any particular group."