Tuesday 21 August 2012

Will A-G dare charge Umno Youth over provocative Facebook post, asks Guan Eng

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — The Attorney-General must prosecute Umno Youth for attempting to stoke racial and religious hatred online to prove he is impartial in enforcing a “presumed-guilty-until-proven-innocent” clause in the controversial Evidence Act — a law that is widely seen to shackle freedom of speech and dissent on the Internet — the DAP’s Lim Guan Eng said today.

A controversial anti-Christianity poster that was uploaded on a Facebook page that shares the same name as the political wing’s official site but which Umno Youth says is “unauthorised” has spotlighted the weaknesses in the recently-passed section 114A of the Evidence Act — a clause that, among others, presumes that the named owner of a website is the publisher of the statement.

The poster, which was uploaded last Saturday and taken down the same day, appeared to suggest that votes for federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will cause Islam to be replaced by Christianity as the country’s official religion.

“We call the A-G, since he defend (sic) 114A of the Evidence Act, to prosecute and charge Umno Youth because of this post,” Lim (picture) told a news conference in George Town today.

“Because the burden of proof now goes to the accused, not to the prosecution because this is now turned backwards, this is now flipped backwards.

“It is not an indication of my support for the amendment but just to show, now this thing happened, isn’t this a gross injustice?” he said.

An audio clip of the news conference was made available to The Malaysian Insider.

Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, said government lawyers must take legal action against Umno Youth to show they do not practise double standards.

“So if that is the case, Umno Youth is presumed guilty for making this type of inflammatory statements — they say their web page is hacked and all that — inflammatory statements to create hatred among Christians and Muslims especially during Hari Raya, they are presumed guilty. They must prove themselves innocent.

“So if they do not charge Umno Youth, this shows there are double standards,” he said.

The DAP secretary-general said unless the prosecutors act on the ruling party’s youth wing, it would show section 114A “is intended to clamp down on freedom of the Internet, freedom of information and to muzzle the voices of freedom and dissent and to silence dissent against the Barisan Nasional government.”

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has denied his team was responsible for uploading the poster he described as “offensive”. A representative of the wing, Ibdilillah Ishak, filed a police report yesterday asking for an investigation to be carried on the perpetrators.

The controversial poster had read: “Jika anda setuju untuk jadikan KRISTIAN sebagai agama rasmi persekutuan Malaysia, teruskan sokongan anda kepada Pakatan Rakyat. (If you agree to make CHRISTIANITY the official religion of the federation of Malaysia, continue supporting Pakatan Rakyat.) ‘God bless you my son’.”

Critics and lawmakers from both sides of the political divide are lobbying for the law that could curb Internet freedom to be repealed after it came into force last month.

The amendment to the Evidence Act sparked an uproar in April when it was passed as it introduces a presumption of publication of online content on the publisher or registered owner of a network, and in essence shifts the burden of proof onto the accused.

Khairy and Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had added their voices to the call to repeal the clause, joining opposition lawmakers already clamouring for the same.

Yesterday, PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar said she awaited “the authorities’ speedy action to charge the person held responsible for any posts on the Umno Youth FB Page”, noting that section 114A would be the relevant law.

The prime minister had on Twitter last week said his Cabinet would review the law after several organisations ― including the Malaysian Bar ― chose to black out their websites to signal their opposition to the law.

A day later, however, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim announced that the law will stay.

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