Ac­tivists take aim at Tele­coms Law

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

A CIVIL­IAN com­mit­tee aim­ing to re­form the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law in­tends to sub­mit its find­ings to the par­lia­men­tary Bill Com­mit­tee in the next three months.

A group com­prised of IT pro­fes­sion­als and le­gal ex­perts, the Com­mit­tee for Amend­ing the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law is cur­rently con­duct­ing re­search. Ac­tivist Ko Maung Saung Kha, who gained no­to­ri­ety – and a stint in prison – for pen­ning a bawdy lyric about hav­ing the pres­i­dent’s face tat­tooed on his pe­nis, sits on the com­mit­tee.

Speak­ing with The Myan­mar Times on Novem­ber 5, Ko Maung Saung Kha said the re­search phase was a mat­ter of some ur­gency – as are its pub­lic aware­ness-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We’ve ex­pected to com­plete our re­search in Jan­uary, but maybe be­fore then, be­cause court cases are con­tin­u­ing at the mo­ment – even Ko Myo Yan Naung Thein from the NLD is be­ing ar­rested un­der this law. That’s why we will do it quickly,” he said.

The com­mit­tee has al­ready hit some­thing of an ob­sta­cle in its work, land­ing it in Zabuthiri Township Court near Nay Pyi Taw. The com­mit­tee had hoped to hold a mi­nor demon­stra­tion to call for the law’s re­form on Novem­ber 4, but was not granted permission by the township po­lice, Ko Maung Saung Kha told re­porters from the court com­pound. He added that he had hoped to ex­plain his group’s ac­tiv­i­ties di­rectly to Nay Pyi Taw Coun­cil chair U Myo Aung.

“We have a lot to say about this law. I was liv­ing for six months and 19 days in jail un­der this law, de­spite the fact that the ver­dict was only six months. That shows the law is wrong,” Ko Maung Saung Kha said.

He high­lighted two ma­jor weak­nesses in the law in its cur­rent form, one be­ing that a per­son can be de­tained with­out a ver­dict. The sec­ond, he says, is that the law has an in­her­ent as­sump­tion that judges will have a rel­a­tively high level of knowl­edge about IT.

The law also re­quires by-laws, he told re­porters.

“Courts and po­lice sta­tions are work­ing on fil­ing claims on the ba­sis of sec­tion 66[d] alone. So there re­quires a spe­cific pro­ce­dure that will give them di­rec­tives. There­fore, we would like to de­mand the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to do it,” he said.

The Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law is be­ing used se­lec­tively and to po­lit­i­cal ends, Ko Maung Saung Kha said.

“We have to raise a ques­tion why this law doesn’t take ef­fect against those who spread re­li­gious hate speech on­line. There are sex­ual abuses against women on­line but this law can’t pre­vent them. The law only takes ac­tions against those who in­sulted state lead­ers ... The law is be­ing used with im­punity,” he said.

“Old habits still re­main,” he added. “There were di­rec­tives that no protest shall take place in Nay Pyi Taw. Now Nay Pyi Taw Coun­cil’s chair has changed so such di­rec­tives will also have to change. Everyone shall have right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion in Nay Pyi Taw. It is called democ­racy. Oth­er­wise we have to raise the ques­tion, ‘What is democ­racy?’”

Photo: Sup­plied

Ko Maung Saung Kha, who gained no­to­ri­ety as a vic­tim of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law last year, speaks to re­porters.

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