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Myanmar telecom law illogical: experts

Dec 16. 2016
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By Nay Myo Htun
Myanmar Eleven

Digital freedom is a fundamental right that every person should enjoy and Section 66(d) under Myanmar telecom law has become a threat to freedom of speech, said the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum.

Digital company Phandeeyar organised the event which was attended by over 55 professionals from the government, technology companies, the media and civil society organisations.

Khin Myat Noe, a partner at Phandeeyar and joint organiser of the event, said: “There were changes in the law and regulations concerning the telecommunications sector. But they are not enough to protect users’ rights. The law should protect people’s rights both offline and online.”

The panellists said the arrest of journalists and civilians under Section 66(d) is threatening freedom of speech. The section is one of many things that needed to be changed and more important matters are data security, access to information and hate speech.

Vicky Bowman, director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, said that the issue affected everyone and technical experts, businesspeople and government should cooperate to address it.

MP Nay Bhone Latt of Thingangyun constituency no.1 said: “When internet cafes were in trend, the licence regulations were so complex. I was jailed for 15 years under electronic transactions law. Ko Min Ko Naing [a veteran pro-democracy activist] was jailed for 60 years with four charges under the same law just for sending four emails. Such penalties are violation of human rights.”

He further pointed out that everyone could sue anyone under Section 66(d) and the suspects were rarely granted bail which was absurd.

“Even if the offended person is fine with the insult, anyone can sue the offending individual under Section 66(d) on behalf of the offended person. Is it logical?”

Htike Htike Aung from the Myanmar ICT Development Organisation said: “Telecoms law affects everyone. If the law permits freedom of expression offline, it also should online.”

Whoever extorts, defames, disturbs or threatens someone via any form of telecommunication shall be sentenced to jail for up to three years or a fined upon conviction under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law enacted in 2013.

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