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The Ministry of Transport and Communications is reviewing the 2013 Telecommunications Law with the assistance of foreign legal experts to determine whether or not the legislation’s article 66(d), a controversial provision on electronic defamation, should be amended.
Speaking outside the Lower House parliamentary chamber on Tuesday, Kyaw Myo, deputy minister for transport and communications, said the ministry is consulting with legal experts from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to assess the merits of article 66(d).
“We are reviewing the Telecommunications Law concerning article 66[d]. The law was written in accordance with international standards, with assistance from the World Bank. Therefore, we are also consulting with international experts, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, on whether it should be revised,” Kyaw Myo told DVB.
The contentious provision prohibits users of telecommunications networks from “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person.”
Critics say it has been used to prosecute political speech, with examples abundant. Cases have frequently been brought against online criticism, or mere ribbing, of senior political figures including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, President Htin Kyaw and Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein.
Those found guilty of violating article 66(d) face up to three years in prison, a fine or both.
According to civil society groups, there have been 38 article 66(d) cases lodged since the National League for Democracy government was sworn into power in late March. That figure does not include cases that were dismissed or could not proceed because the identity of the alleged defamer could not be ascertained. Sixteen defendants are currently in custody facing trial, and three others have already been found guilty and sentenced to prison terms.