Ex-Speaker asks for pub­lic in­put on tele­coms defama­tion clause

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

A WEAPON of op­pres­sion and threat to free­dom of ex­pres­sion? Or cur­tailer of hate speech and di­a­logue mod­er­a­tor?

The pub­lic is wag­ing a debate about sec­tion 66(d) of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law, the no­to­ri­ous defama­tion clause that has been wielded re­cently in a se­ries of high-pro­file cases against so­cial me­dia posters.

For­mer hlut­taw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann joined the con­ver­sa­tion yes­ter­day, with a post of his own on Face­book. He did not clearly state his stance on whether the sec­tion should be amended or not, but in­stead raised the is­sue for pub­lic in­put.

Some have voiced con­cerns that the law’s pro­vi­sion is “ex­treme” or “can be ma­nip­u­lated”, the cur­rent chair of par­lia­ment’s Com­mis­sion for the As­sess­ment of Le­gal Af­fairs and Spe­cial Is­sues said in his post.

“Whether it should be amended or re­pealed or left un­changed is a mat­ter of the pol­icy [of the ad­min­is­tra­tion]. Since poli­cies are the pre­cur­sors of laws, the role of pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the hlut­taw be­comes sig­nif­i­cant,” his post read.

The sec­tion of the 2013 Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law un­der scru­tiny says any­one “ex­tort­ing, co­erc­ing, re­strain­ing wrong­fully, de­fam­ing, dis­turb­ing, caus­ing un­due in­flu­ence or threat­en­ing any per­son by us­ing any telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work” can be pun­ished with a max­i­mum im­pris­on­ment of three years, a fine or both.

Hu­man rights ac­tivists have fre­quently crit­i­cised the law’s pro­vi­sion as un­der­min­ing free ex­pres­sion, and in do­ing so, en­dan­ger­ing demo­cratic val­ues.

Thura U Shwe Mann’s par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion is pre­par­ing to re­view that sec­tion of the law, com­mis­sion mem­ber U Aye Mauk told The Myan­mar Times last week.

The law has gar­nered con­tro­versy since it started to come into force in the ar­rest of so­cial me­dia crit­ics to­ward the end of then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein’s term, and in a spate of cases around the elec­tion. It has con­tin­ued to be em­ployed, and used to im­prison peo­ple, un­der the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led gov­ern­ment. NLD mem­ber U Myo Yan Naung Thein was ar­rested ear­lier this month and is fac­ing charges un­der sec­tion 66(d) for a post re­lated to crit­i­cis­ing the Tat­madaw chief.

Other prom­i­nent cases in­clude a law­suit against Ma Chaw Sandi Htun, an NLD mem­ber from Maubin, and Pa­trick Kum Ja Lee, a Kachin peace ac­tivist. They were both, separately, sen­tenced for on­line com­ments about the se­nior gen­eral.

De­spite the fact that the leg­is­la­tion lacks by-laws to reg­u­late its en­force­ment, courts have con­tin­ued to hear cases and con­vict peo­ple un­der the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law.

Poet Ko Maung Saung Kha, who served time un­der sec­tion 66(d), has been lead­ing the charge in hav­ing the defama­tion sec­tion re­moved or amended. He and a com­mit­tee of oth­ers pros­e­cuted un­der the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law have been lob­by­ing par­lia­ment.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

U Myo Yan Naung Thein is es­corted by po­lice on Novem­ber 9 af­ter he was de­tained on a Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law charge.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.