September 28, 2012
Freedom on the NET Status: Malaysia maintains “Partly Free” status
This places Malaysia on the 23rd spot, in the same league as Libya and Jordon, and maintains its “partly free” label in the think tank’s “Freedom on the Net Status”.
The ranking employed a demerit system (i.e. Zero being no obstacles to Internet freedom) to construct the rankings. This year, Malaysia picked up an additional two point and is now 43 of 100.
In the region, Malaysia (23rd) ranks behind the Philippines (7th place) and Indonesia (21st) but is ahead of Thailand (35th), Vietnam (40th) and Burma (41st).
One of the chief Freedom House complaints is the amendments to Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950 which make intermediaries liable for content posted by anonymous users.
“(This raises) concerns that it would damper free expression online and open the doors to selective, politically motivated prosecutions,” read the report. Freedom House noted that the amendments were hurriedly rushed through passage and now allowed the presumption of guilt, shifting the burden of proof to the accused.
Evolving tactics of harassment
The report said although there were fewer defamation cases against bloggers and several earlier prosecutions had been discontinued, defamation cases against bloggers involving disproportionate request for damages threatened to chill online expression.
“In 2011, a number of bloggers faced legal harassment, intimidation, fine and brief periods of detention. No bloggers were imprisoned at year’s end, though several had charges pending against them,” read the report.
Freedom House said only one blogger – Mohd Nur Hanief Abdul Jalil – was arrested for referencing an alleged sex scandal involving a VVIP on his blog.
The penchant of ruling party figures using Facebook and other social media tools was also noted by Freedom House, but remarked that the use of “cybertroopers” to manipulate online discourse is on the rise.
The report also detailed attempts to cripple websites at crucial political moments, such as the April 2011 denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Malaysiakini and again in July 2011.
“Although the attacks have not been conclusively traced to the government, some observers believe they were either sponsored or condoned by Malaysian security agencies,” read the report.The full report can be downloaded here.