The New Age Of Harassment/骚扰案件的新时代

The New Age Of Harassment

**可以在下方查看本文章的华文版本

With the growing use of the internet and social networking platforms in today’s society, the number of incidents related to online or cyber harassment has also tremendously increased in Malaysia. Cyber harassment occurs where the attacker harasses a victim using electronic communication, such as e-mails or text messages, or even messages posted to a website. Although cyber harassment does not necessarily involve physical violence, the harasser participates in abusive online behaviour which may include: –

  • Constant messaging, e-mailing or texting the victim in a way that makes him/her feel intimidated or scared
  • Verbally abusing or making threats to the victim
  • Embarrassing or humiliating the victim by posting intimate videos or photos of the victim without consent
  • Posting and spreading false rumours about the victim on social media

Often times, cyber harassment is carried out by a person the victim knows personally and is especially rife between spouses/ ex spouses/ intimate partners.

The laws on cyber harassment

In Malaysia, the laws on cyber harassment are scattered and there is currently no specific legislation governing cyber harassment. The current legislative landscape in Malaysia offers the victims some form of protection against cyber harassment under a few key legislations, including:-

  • Penal Code

Section 503 of the Penal Code provides for criminal intimidation and may include cyber harassment if the perpetrator threatens to cause any injury to the victim, with an intention to cause alarm. The Penal Code defines “injury” widely, which includes any harm illegally caused to a person’s body, mind, reputation or property. Section 506 of the Penal Code provides that whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend to 2 years, or a fine, or both (extendable to seven years imprisonment if the threat is to cause death or grievous hurt).

Section 509 of the Penal Code provides that it is a criminal offence to do anything to insult the modesty of another and/or intrude upon the privacy of another. An example of this would be where the perpetrator harasses his victim by posting intimate videos or photos of the victim on social networking sites. However, this section is rather limited in its application as the provision only penalises an act of insult to the modesty of a woman. All other forms of threats or insults would not be covered under this provision. A person charged under this section shall face imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years, or a fine, or both.

  • Communication and Multimedia Act (“CMA”) 1998

The CMA 1998 was enacted by the Parliament to provide for and to regulate the converging communications and multimedia industries. Section 233 (1) of the CMA 1998 criminalises the use of network facilities or network services by a person to transmit any communication that is either indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive in character with the intention to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person. However, Section 233 (1) is so widely drafted and lack the necessary legal definition of the terms. As such, it is unclear what sort of communications would constitute “indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass” and would be up to the interpretation of the Court.

  • Domestic Violence Act (“DVA”) 1994

Cyber harassment is also a form of domestic violence, which is governed under the DVA 1994. Previously, the scope of domestic violence was confined to physical violence and did not include psychological or emotional abuse as an act of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017 has expanded the definition of “domestic violence” in Section 2 of the DVA 1994 to include communicating with the victim with intent to insult the modesty of the victim, whether through electronic means or otherwise. A harasser who threatens a victim with intent to cause the victim to fear for his/her safety, or to suffer distress would also constitute as domestic violence under the new amendments. Spouses and/or former spouses, who are victims of cyber harassment would now be afforded protection under the amended DVA 1994.

The DVA 1994 also includes added protection for spouses and former spouses in the form of a protection order against their perpetrators. An Interim Protection Order (“IPO”), which is a Court order, can be obtained to prohibit the perpetrators from harassing the victim and is valid throughout the police investigation. It may be noted, however, that the IPO is merely temporary and would cease upon the completion of the police investigations, or once the harasser is charged in Court. The victim may then apply for a Protection Order (“PO”) during criminal proceedings i.e. once the harasser is charged. The PO provides a longer period of protection, and may last for 12 months, with an extension of another 12 months.

 If the circumstances warrant an immediate protection to victims, an Emergency Protection Order (“EPO”) may also be obtained. A police report is not needed for an EPO, as the order is issued by a social welfare officer instructing the perpetrator to stop harassing the victim.

However, it may be noted that the DVA 1994 only offers protection to spouses and former spouses and would not apply if the perpetrator is not married to the victim.

Inadequate laws – the need for specific legislation

Although legislations such as the CMA 1998 and the Penal Code criminalise cyber harassment, these existing laws may not be sufficient or specific enough in providing effective protection for victims against cyber harassment. For example, there are no provisions under the Penal Code for the protection of victims while the police investigation is ongoing. Further, Section 233(1) of the CMA 1998 has also often been criticised for its vague and overly broad wording, leaving the provision open to a wide range of interpretation and application.

The need for effective protection against cyber harassment is necessary. The laws must be specific to address cyber harassment as well as other forms of harmful cyber behaviour such as cyber stalking, in which Malaysia still does not have a law to criminalise the same.

Many countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore have enacted specific laws to combat cyber stalking or cyber harassment.  For example, Singapore’s Protection from Harassment Act (“POHA”) 2014 was designed specifically to make acts of cyber stalking and online harassment a criminal offence. Under the POHA 2014, victims can apply for a protection order in which the acts of harassment covered under the protection order are wide-ranging. This includes prohibiting the perpetrator from doing any harassing acts towards the victim, or requiring the perpetrator to stop publishing the harassing communications.

Our Parliament is therefore urged to enact a new legislation akin to Singapore’s POHA 2014 in providing adequate legal protection against harmful cyber behaviours through a range of civil remedies and criminal sanctions.

By: Jaclyn Chang

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice and/or legal opinion. Messrs Yeoh & Joanne accepts no liability for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in this article.

 

骚扰案件的新时代

 

随着互联网和社交网络平台在当今社会的日益使用,在马来西亚,与在线或网络骚扰相关的事件数量也大幅增加。网络骚扰是指攻击者通过电子通信骚扰受害者,如电子邮件或短信,甚至是张贴在网站上的信息。虽然网络骚扰不一定涉及身体暴力,但骚扰者参与的网络虐待行为可能包括:-

  • 不断给受害者发信息、邮件或短信,让他/她感到受到威胁或害怕
  • 口头辱骂或威胁受害者
  • 未经同意发布受害者的私密视频或照片,使受害者尴尬或羞辱
  • 在社交媒体上发布和传播关于受害者的虚假谣言

通常,网络骚扰是由受害者认识的人实施的,尤其是发生在配偶/前配偶/亲密伴侣之间。 

关于网络骚扰的法律

在马来西亚,关于网络骚扰的法律很分散,目前没有关于网络骚扰的具体立法。马来西亚目前的立法根据几项关键立法为受害者提供了某种形式的保护,以防止网络骚扰,包括:-

  • 《刑事法典》 

《刑事法典》第503条文规定了刑事恐吓,如果犯罪人威胁将对受害者造成任何伤害,意图引起恐慌,则可能包括网络骚扰。《刑事法典》对“伤害”的定义很广,包括对一个人的身体、精神、名誉或财产造成的任何非法的伤害。《刑事法典》第506条文规定,任何犯有刑事恐吓罪的人将被判处2年监禁,或罚款,或两者兼施(如果威胁造成死亡或严重伤害,可延长至7年监禁)。

《刑事法典》第509条文规定,侮辱他人的贞洁和/或侵犯他人的隐私是刑事犯罪。这方面的一个例子是,犯罪者通过在社交网站上发布受害者的私密视频或照片来骚扰受害者。然而,这一条文的适用范围相当有限,因为这一条文只惩罚侮辱妇女贞洁的行为。该条文不涵盖所有其他形式的威胁或侮辱。根据该条文被指控的人将面临长达5年的监禁,或罚款,或两者兼而有之。

  • 1998年通讯与多媒体法令》 

议会通过了《1998年通讯与多媒体法令》,以规定和管理融合的通信和多媒体行业。《1998年通讯与多媒体法令》第233 (1)条规定,任何人利用网络设施或网络服务传送任何猥亵、淫秽、虚假、威胁或冒犯性质的信息,意图骚扰、虐待、威胁或骚扰任何人,均属犯罪。然而,第233 (1)条起草得太广泛,缺乏必要的术语法律定义。因此,不清楚什么样的通信会构成“意图骚扰、滥用、威胁或骚扰的猥亵、淫秽、虚假、威胁或冒犯性质的信息”,并取决于法院的解读。

  • 1994年家庭暴力法》 

网络骚扰也是家庭暴力的一种形式,受《1994年家庭暴力法》管辖。以前,家庭暴力的范围仅限于身体暴力,不包括作为家庭暴力行为的心理或情感虐待。《2017年家庭暴力(修正)法》扩大了《1994年家庭暴力法》第2条中“家庭暴力”的定义,包括通过电子手段或其他方式与受害者交流,意图侮辱受害者的贞洁。根据新的修正案,威胁受害者的骚扰者并意图使受害者担心自己的安全或遭受痛苦,也将构成家庭暴力。受到网络骚扰的配偶和/或前配偶现在将根据经修订的《1994年家庭暴力法》得到保护。

《1994年家庭暴力法》还以保护令的形式对配偶和前配偶增加了保护。临时保护令是一项法院命令,用以禁止肇事者骚扰受害者,并在整个警方调查期间有效。然而,可以指出的是,临时保护令只是暂时的,一旦警方完成调查,或者骚扰者在法庭上被起诉,临时保护令就会失效。受害者可以在刑事诉讼期间申请保护令,即一旦骚扰者被起诉。保护令给予更长的保护期,可持续12个月,并可以再延长12个月。

如果情况下,受害者需要立即被保护,也可以获得紧急保护令。紧急行保护令需要警方报告,因为命令是由社会福利官员颁发的,指示肇事者停止骚扰受害者。

然而,可以注意到,《1994年家庭暴力法》仅向配偶和前配偶提供保护,如果犯罪者未与受害者结婚,则不适用。

不完善的法律——具体立法的需要 

尽管《1998年通讯与多媒体法令》和《刑事法典》等立法将网络骚扰定为刑事犯罪,但这些现行法律在为受害者提供有效保护免受网络骚扰方面可能不够充分或具体。例如,《刑事法典》中没有关于在警方调查期间保护受害者的条款。此外,《1998年通讯与多媒体法令》第233(1)条也经常因措辞模糊和过于宽泛而受到批评,使该条规有过于广泛的解读和应用范围。

需要针对网络骚扰提供有效保护。这些法律必须专门针对网络骚扰以及其他形式的有害网络行为,如网络跟踪,马来西亚目前还没有将这类行为定为犯罪的法律。

澳洲、英国和新加坡等许多国家都通过了特定法律来打击网络跟踪或网络骚扰。例如,新加坡的《2014年免受骚扰法》专门将网络跟踪和在线骚扰行为定为刑事犯罪。根据《2014年免受骚扰法》,受害者可以申请保护令,而保护令所涵盖的骚扰行为范围也很广泛。这包括禁止肇事者对受害者进行任何骚扰行为,或要求肇事者停止发布骚扰讯息。

因此,我国议会急需尽快通过一项类似于《2014年免受骚扰法》的新立法,通过一系列民事补救措施和刑事制裁,针对有害的网络行为提供充分的法律保护。

文章来自于:张美琪律师 (Jaclyn Chang Mei Qi)

文章翻译:李淑婷律师 (Lee Su Ting)

免责声明:本文仅供参考,不应作为法律建议和/或法律意见。Yeoh & Joanne律师事务所不会承担因依赖本文所含信息而产生的任何损失的责任。

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