Najib support, agreed and stands by evidence act 114A

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The Prime Minister says online freedom must “coexist with respect”, which is why his Government continues to back its amendment to the Evidence Act despite calls for the legislation to be watered down.

However, Datuk Seri Najib Razak agreed that the Government could have better explained what the Act means for internet users in Malaysia at the time it was passing through the Dewan Rakyat.

“I have always said I want the online space to be vibrant, just as I want a traditional media that is free, transparent and fair,” Najib said.

“While this changing landscape is both exhilarating and liberating, with it comes new ethical questions.”

The Evidence Act has been attacked because opponents say it removes the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The Bar Council claims that owners of a domain, device or even an internet cafe could be held responsible for what is posted online regardless of who created it.

But the Government says that is not what the revised Act is all about. Najib pointed out that the aim is to prevent those who hide until a cloak of internet anonymity from launching cowardly attacks on others – something that is presently rife in our digital society.

More importantly, it aims to thwart would-be terrorists who might otherwise think they can use the web to spread their doctrine with impunity, recruit volunteers, and undermine the security of our nation.

Najib’s robust defence of this legislation was made at the National Press Club 2012 in KL – something of a lion’s den for a Prime Minister in an election year. His refusal to budge shows a degree of courage given it would have been easy to announce tinkering changes to the Act for the sake of a few positive headlines.

Fortunately for Malaysia, that’s not how Najib works.

The PM reminded the assembled journalists that his Government has already done much to liberalise the media, especially with the changes to the Printing Presses and Publications Bill this year. He could also have told them that his Government has never controlled or sought to restrict the internet, hence the numerous forums in which the cyber rakyat already launch libellous attacks and spread lies.

But for Najib, that’s just part of politics in a democracy. He understands he has to be able to take the knocks, be they fair or foul. It’s the national security imperative that makes the changes to the Evidence Act so essential.

In its own way, this legislation again highlights the difference between Najib’s Government and the Opposition. While Pakatan Rakyat comes up with ideas that contain only vote-grabbing (and financially unviable) giveaways, Najib is prepared to stick by something that is most certainly not based on short-term or populist gain.

The Evidence Act amendments weren’t introduced with votes in mind, but because they are right for the nation.

Voters might want to ask themselves if Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would be prepared to take unpopular decisions and stand by them because they are right the nation.

The evidence so far is that Anwar would fold at the first sign of pressure. That is important to remember ahead of GE 13. – The Choice