Myanmar blocks proposal to amend online defamation law

Local and international advocate groups have been demanding reforms in the law

Myanmar blocks proposal to amend online defamation law

World Bulletin / News Desk

Myanmar’s ruling party has blocked one of its lawmakers from submitting a proposal to parliament, seeking to abolish or amend the controversial telecommunication law which criminalizes online defamation.

The use of section 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law -- a criminal law provision that permits penalties of up to three years in prison for alleged defamatory posts on Facebook or other social media --- has soared since the current government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi took power in early 2016.

Ye Htut, a lawmaker from Suu Kyi’s ruling party National League for Democracy, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that party’s censorship board blocked his proposal this week, the second such block in 2017.

“My proposal was first blocked in January, and now again,” said Ye Htut by phone, adding the lawmakers have to present to party’s censorship board first before submitting to national-level parliaments.

“Without approval from party, how could the law be amended?”

Tun Tun Hein, chair of bill committee of the lower house, told Anadolu Agency that no such proposal or bill had been presented to the committee so far.

“If the section is against the democratic norms, we will try to abolish or amend it,” he told by phone on Friday.

Local and international advocate groups have been calling on the government for an immediate reform of the law, a holdover from the era when previous quasi-civilian government attempted to restrict peaceful speech for political reasons.

At least 68 people have been charged for violating the law and at least 16 people sentenced to prison terms to date, according to a campaign group led by activists who were victims of the law.

Off the cases, 61 people were sued under Suu Kyi’s administration term starting March, 2016.

The cases have created a chilling effect on free speech and press freedom as the section has been used almost exclusively to target journalists and who criticized country’s leaders.

A New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a statement released Friday voiced strong support for a campaign launched by local journalists across the country, calling for an immediate repeal of section 66(d) of Myanmar’s Telecommunication Law.

The Freedom or Press campaign was launched after two leading journalists were detained last week on defamation charges filed by the military under section 66(d) of the law for writing and publishing a satirical article mocking the top generals.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Haziran 2017, 16:06