Tuesday, July 25, 2017

22 groups launch online drive against Section 66(d)

A Coalition of 22 civil society groups launched an online campaign on Thursday to abolish Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law.

In the campaign called ‘#OurVoiceOurHluttaw against Section 66(d)’, includes a link, bit.ly/66Dsign, where people can sign and make suggestions and tell lawmakers their opinion of the law.

According to the team, people were able to use the link starting July 13.

“Lawmakers must listen to the people’s voice regarding the amendment process of the Telecommunication Law before it is approved. We don’t think human rights will be protected if parliament approves the amendment bill published on July 9,” Daw Wai Phyo Myint, a member of the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business who is active in the campaign, told a news conference in Yangon on Thursday.

The Coalition on the Movement for Telecommunication Law Reform and Section 66(d) Abolition was founded in January with the aim of amending the law and abolishing 66(d). Many people have been charged under the article, and it is not enough to amend it without regard to public opinion, said Maung Saung Kha who is active in the campaign.

The coalition sent its research and suggestions on the law to government officials on June 22, including the minster of Transportation and Telecommunications and the Amyotha Hluttaw Bill Committee.

‘’It’s welcomed to see a quick response by the government [to change 66(d)], but we feel that the government is merely making it a show. It takes a long time to amend a law in order to make it perfect after listening to people’s voice and their suggestions. It’s not good to amend a law in a very short time,” said Ma Zarchi Oo, a program manager at PEN Myanmar.

The amendment bill of the Telecommunication Law was being submitted to the Amyotha Hluttaw on Thursday, which has not yet set a date to discuss the bill.

A research team has been recording and collecting data since last year on how 66(d) has been used in the prosecution of offenders. The team said the ministry had received 166 requests seeking its permission to bring charges under the law.

Section 66(d) provides for up to three years in prison for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.” In the past two years, the law has opened the door to a wave of criminal prosecutions of individuals for peaceful communications on Facebook and has increasingly been used to stifle criticism of the authorities.

According to the 2013 Telecommunications Research Group, which has been documenting prosecutions under 66(d), at least 73 people are known to have been charged with online defamation under the law.