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Digital Rights, Security & Privacy

Background

Malaysia is a Federal Constitutional Elective country with Westminster Parliamentary System. Malaysia has population of around 30.5 million, with 67.5% of internet penetration as of 2014, among the highest in the region. More than 80 percent of Internet users live in urban areas, and penetration remains low in less populated states in East Malaysia.

Malaysia’s constitution provides citizens with “the right to freedom of speech and expression,” but allows for limitations on this right, even MSC Malaysia has mentioned in the Bill of Guarantees No.7, "ensures no censorship of the Internet.". Legal harassment remained a primary means for the authorities to intimidate internet users with bloggers and increasingly, to the social media users, investigated and sometimes charged for online activity. The government exercises tight control over online as well as print and broadcast media through laws like the Official Secrets Act and the Sedition Act. The government has also pursued prosecutions based on the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA)’s broadly worded Section 211, which bans content deemed “indecent, obscene, false, threatening, or offensive,” and Section 233, when such content is shared via the internet.

In 2012, parliament passed an amendment to the 1950 Evidence Act that holds intermediaries liable for seditious content posted anonymously on their networks or websites. This would include hosts of online forums, news outlets, and blogging services, as well as businesses providing Wi-Fi services. The amendment also holds someone liable if their name is attributed to the content or if the computer it was sent from belongs to them, whether or not they were the author. 2015, parliament has passed a bill of amendment to the Sedition Act that added a new section which empowers the court to issue an order to an authorised officer under the Communications and Multimedia Act to prevent access to such publications if the perpetrator is not identified.

Justification

Malaysia’s constitution provides citizens with “the right to freedom of speech and expression,” and MSC Malaysia has guaranteed in the Bill of Guarantees No.71, to ensures no censorship of the Internet. Thus, Malaysians have enjoyed this for long time without any prosecution. As of November 2015, there were 37 incidents where an individual have been investigated, arrested, charged and/or punished under the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA) documented by SUARAM. Besides, there were also several websites censored by the authority, which was also violated the freedom of expression as well as the digital rights.

Freedom of Expression

Politicians and random social media users have been prosecuted. In 2009, police charged at least eight internet users for criticism of the monarchy. July 2013, there were a group of people reported and asked police to investigate two Facebook users for comments about the king and the prophet Muhammad. Others reported a separate Facebook account in October for posting an image of the prime minister with a woman’s body.

In July 2013, police detained bloggers Alvin Tan Jye Yee and Vivian Lee May Ling for eight days on charges of sedition and causing religious disharmony after they posted a greeting to Muslims celebrating Ramadan under an image of themselves eating pork on Facebook. In November 2013, a group filed a police report against another Facebook user for posting an image of pork alongside Islamic symbols under the account name Adlin Abd Jalil.

February 2014, a woman was briefly detained for allegedly insulting the sultan of Selangor on her Facebook page. In the same month, police outside Kuala Lumpur, detained a Facebook user they identified as ”Man Namblast” in for allegedly posting seditious remarks about Hindus. Later on May 6, opposition politician Teresa Kok was charged with sedition for allegedly insulting Islam and the nation’s leaders, four months after sharing an 11-minute video which used invented Chinese New Year predictions to satirize government policies.

Safety and Anonymity

In 2012, police charged Syed Abdullah Syed Hussein al-Attas, who blogs pseudonymously as “Uncle Seekers,” with insulting the Sultan in 64 of his posts. In August 2012, a Kuala Lumpur court sentenced blogger and opposition People’s Justice Party member Amizudin Ahmat to three months in jail on charges of contempt for blogging about Dr. Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s information and culture minister, after being banned from doing so in a 2011 defamation ruling against him.

In November 2013, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar warned online news portal Free Malaysia Today and its popular columnist Mariam Mokhtar for producing articles he described as “highly seditious”.

In June 2014, Prime Minister Najib filed a defamation suit against Malaysiakini for two allegedly defamatory articles published in May that compiled readers' comments.

Censorship

May 2013 general election, opposition news websites faced cyber attacks, and a list of candidates circulating online was discovered to contain spyware. The Malaysian Insider documented FinFisher’s presence in Malaysia, based on a New York Times report. In response, the MCMC threatened the site with a fine of up to MYR 50,000 or one year imprisonment for false reporting under the CMA.

In fact since July 2015, Malaysian government has blocked at least ten websites, including online news portals (Sarawak Report, Malaysia Chronicle, The Malaysian Insider, Asia Sentinel, Medium) and private blogs, for reporting about the scandal surrounding Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak over his mysterious private dealings with RM2.6 billions.

Also, the suspension of the publishing permit of the Edge Weekly and the Edge Financial Daily for three months over the reports on 1MDB and the arrests of Lionel Morais, Amin Iskandar, Zulkifli Sulong, Ho Kay Tat and Jahabar Sadiq were blatant punishment and harassment of the mass media and journalists by the Malaysian government.

In November 2015, Malaysiakini’s office raided over the report that a deputy public prosecutor was transferred out of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) special operations division. In the same day, Royal Malaysian Police aided by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) also visited The Star headquarters over a similar report. 

Laws and Acts

Communication & Multimedia Act (CMA)

The government has pursued prosecutions based on the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) broadly worded Section 211, which bans content deemed “indecent, obscene, false, threatening, or offensive,” and Section 233, when such content is shared via the internet

Printing, Presses and Publications Act (PPPA)

The amendment of PPPA in 2012 had expanded its scope and include ‘publication’ (anything which by its form, shape or in any manner is capable of suggesting words or ideas) posted online and plug loopholes.

Sedition Act

The amendment of Sedition Act that added a new section which empowers the court to issue an order to an authorised officer under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to prevent access to such publications if the perpetrator is not identified.

Evidence Act

Amendments of Evidence Act 1950 holds intermediaries liable for seditious content posted anonymously on their networks or websites. This including hosts of online forums, news outlets, and blogging services, as well as businesses providing Wi-Fi services. The amendment also holds someone liable if their name is attributed to the content or if the computer it was sent from belongs to them, whether or not they were the author.

Prevention of Crime Act (PoCA)

The amendment of PoCA allows for detention without trial for a period of two years. This order can be extended by another two years by the board. Besides, a supervision order allows for a registered person to be attached with an electronic monitoring device and imposes conditions such as restriction on internet use or meeting with other registered persons.

Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA)

SOSMA has replaced the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allowed for infinitely renewable detentions without trial and had been used to hold bloggers. Also, the amendment authorizes phone-tapping and communications powers to the government and also electronic anklet to track the freed detainees of Prevention of Terrorism Act (PoTA).

Prevention of Terrorism Act (PoTA)

It enables the Malaysian authorities to detain terror suspects without trial for a period of two years. PoTA also does not allow any judicial reviews of detentions. Instead, detentions will be reviewed by a special Prevention of Terrorism Board. Besides, suspected militants will be fitted with electronic monitoring devices (EMD or electronic anklets) upon their release from detention.

Official Secret Act (OSA)

Malaysia's Official Secrets Act is a broadly-worded law which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, as well as significant lesser penalties for the actions associated with the wrongful collection, possession or communication of official information. Any public officer can declare any material an official secret -- a certification which cannot be questioned in court . The act allows for arrest and detention without a warrant, and substantially reverses the burden of proof. It states that "until the contrary is proven," any of the activities proscribed under the act will be presumed to have been undertaken "for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of Malaysia."

Objectives

  • To inform the public on their legal rights as internet users as self-defence.

  • To teach the public on protection of their own information by running training workshops.

  • To provide solution technically and legally when facing emergency threats.

Goals

  • To protect the rights of the internet users against draconian law.

  • To give secured online working condition for organisations to carry out their work.

  • To educate the public on digital rights and security.

  • To give technical support when facing emergency threats.

Beneficiaries

This project will benefit the at-risk-groups such as civil society organisations' members, journalists, political workers and activists in Malaysia. Other than that, this project will be indirectly benefit to random internet users, especially young people.

Strategy & Implementation Plan

Outputs

Training of Trainers

  • Training of trainers on digital security to the community at risk  i.e Journalist, LGBT, Lawyers, Activist and give technical support and solutions when facing emergency threats.

  • Public education and awareness on internet freedom, digital security and privacy, to inform the public on their legal rights as internet users as self-defense.

Technical Support

  • Building and adopting surveillance and Internet monitoring tools.

  • Websites censorship checking -- http://blockedornot.sinarproject.org/

  • Disturb/counter attack/alternate the code behind a website using a programme/app when a site is blocked/censored

  • Run a private proxy

Advocacy

  • Legal research on relative laws & acts: Copyright Act, Cyber Law, Communications & Multimedia Act (CMA), Printing, Presses & Publication Act (PPPA), Sedition Act, Evidence Act, Prevention of Crime Act (PoCA), Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA), Prevention of Terrorism Act (PoTA).

  • Policy research and lobbying on industry bodies: Google, FaceBook, Twitter & other social media, to give secured online working condition for organisations to carry out their work.

  • Training modules development - translating the current modules by Electronic Frontier Foundation onto Malays Language to reach out to the grassroot communities.

Monitoring and Documentation

  • Incident reporting verification and documentation on digital rights violation. -- http://digimon.sinarproject.org/

  • Monitor and review on the new laws and existing laws amendment.