One Malaya editorial team had the liberty to speak with one of the the legal practitioners familiar with cyber defamation.
Over the years we have heard about defamation, but what is cyber defamation exactly.
Local practising lawyer Muhammad Akram bin Dato’ Dr. Abdul Aziz who dealts with Intellectual Property and Cyber law matters explains further for our understanding.
What is Cyber Defamation?
In discussing this, we must first define the term ‘defamation’. In a nutshell, defamation refers to the publication of a defamatory statement (either orally or in writing), whereby this statement has some details or indications to implicate a specific person.
The statement must also be published or made known to a third party/third parties in order for defamation to be established.
When it comes to cyber defamation, the elements that needed to fulfill are still the same as above.
However, the means of doing so might be different than conventional means. With the advent of modern technology, these days defamation could be established by way of social media postings.
It could also made via circulation of WhatsApp texts conversations, or perhaps through video conferencing ala Zoom or Skype.
Which are the laws in Malaysia that covers this cyber defamation?
In Malaysia, we may refer to Defamation Act 1957 which provides the laws when it comes to defamation; it states how defamation could be committed, type of defenses and exceptions to the general rule that are available to resist a claim for defamation.
At times, the defamatory statement might include things such as nude photos or videos.
This may tantamount to a criminal offence and the Penal Code may come into the picture (specifically, Section 499 and 500 of the said Code) where the offender could be sentenced with prison terms or fine.
Since cyber defamation has broaden the means of committing the said act/offence, reference could also be made to Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 as it covers the ‘cyber’ part of things.
However, it is not the only the law that might be applicable to cyber defamation as it really depends on the manner on how the act/offence is committed.
Any popular cases to refer in Malaysia?
There are numerous cases being reported by the local news outlets pertaining to cyber defamation; most of them involves either local celebrities or politicians.
Personally, I have handled a fair share of cyber defamation-based legal actions (you may refer to this link for one of them: https://www.hmetro.com.my/rap/2020/06/586381/fara-mendoza-menang-saman-malu-terhadap-zarina-anjoulie).
In terms of local legal journals, we may refer to Rafizi Ramli’s case where the circulation of video clip regarding a comment made by Rafizi during press conference led to him being sued in court.
He did however, won the case on appeal on the basis of the statement made being a form of ‘fair comment’.
One thing that the public should take note is the fact that they may be held liable for defamation merely by posting or sharing defamatory statements made by other parties (it is not compulsory for them being the original source of the defamatory statement).
How to avoid cyber defamation and be an ethical user on cyber world?
It is advisable to be prudent and vigilant when it comes to posting and sharing stuffs online.
One should always verify the accuracy and authenticity of statements or online materials prior to posting, circulating and sharing them.
The mentality of ‘please share’ (‘mohon share’) adopted by a number of people when it comes to online postings should also change; it is futile to share an unverfied statements online in order to gain a few ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ when it resulted in legal actions being taken against them.
For those interested to contact Mr.Akram please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org