By Eleven Myanmar
Asia News Network
The letter stated that the government was using existing laws in the new period since the scrutiny board was scrapped to control freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly. The existing laws seemed to put pressure on people to control their expressions and freedom of writing. Of the existing laws, Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law enacted in 2013 was being used like a weapon to sentence people to prison, including government officials, the police, Tatmadaw and media professionals.
Seven charges were filed under Section 66(d) under the previous government and five people were sentenced to prison. However, under the new democratic and transparent government, 29 charges have been filed targeting Facebook users, activists and journalists. In some cases, a third party as plaintiff has filed suit. And as soon as a lawsuit is filed, the accused can be detained, the letter said.
The letter said the definition of the law is unclear. Police have authority regarding charges and the accused can be arrested immediately without being questioned.
However, for media professionals, the Media Law was enacted in 2014 and the Myanmar Press Council is meant to provide oversight. Ignoring the Media Law, Section 66(d) is being used to imprison people.
The Myanmar Press Council was formed with the aim of protecting media professionals and entrenching press ethics. But Pen Myanmar said the council was still weak in solving arguments concerning journalists in spite of its propounded press ethics. When the press council mediates a problem between a plaintiff and defendant, the latter must make an apology to the former, the letter said.
The press council lacks sufficient authority because provisions prescribed in the Media Law are weak, the letter said. According to the Chapter 6 of the Media Law, the press council must be independent and free but really it is under the control of the executive branch and media professionals are not allowed to choose those who represent them. Section 35(a) of Chapter 11 of the bylaw states that anyone can lodge a complaint with the press council, but plaintiffs can sue without lodging complaints, the letter said.
Existing laws are there to protect the rights of the people, the letter argued, not to serve as weapons, which violates democratic values. For that reason, Pen Myanmar urged Parliament to review the Media Law and Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, and drop all recent charges under Section 66(d), the letter said.