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Motion to repeal controversial clause in Myanmar telecom law defeated in lower house


Photo: Min Min/Mizzima

In the deliberations on the Bill for Amending the Telecommunications Law, a National League for Democracy MP moved to repeal the controversial subsection 66(d) of the law but it was defeated in the House of Representatives.

MP Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo, from the ruling NLD party, moved a motion for repealing subsection 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law but it was defeated in House of Representatives in division by votes with 19 Yes votes and 372 No votes.

In his motion MP Aung Kyaw Kaw Oo said that this subsection should be totally repealed as it is ultra vires with the 2008 Constitution, is similar to the section already included in the Penal Code, and it is being misused arbitrarily.

The advocacy group Research Team for the Telecommunications Law says 17 journalists have been charged or arrested under the law since Aung San Suu Kyi's government took power last year. A total of 88 cases have been charged under this subsection of the law.

“This law is being misused arbitrarily and it is giving trouble to the people as in the previous other infamous laws such as 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, 1975 Law Safeguarding the State from the danger of Subversive Elements, Wards and Village Tracts Act which conferred power to local authorities for inspecting houses for unregistered overnight guests at any time even at midnight and all of them have been repealed by this parliament. Similar to these infamous laws, the said Telecommunication Law and this subsection are notorious among the people because of misuse of it,” MP Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo said in his deliberation.

But the Bill Committee of the House of Representatives said in its deliberation that repealing law because of being misused by those who are exercising this law would be unfair and unjust.

In his deliberation, Bill Committee Chairman of House of Representative Tun Tun Hein opposed the totally repealing of this subsection as saying: “There is no absolute freedom on ‘freedom of expression’ even in the well-established democratic countries. The freedom of expression must be in accordance with the existing laws. The said 2013 Telecommunications Law is the existing law. So freedom of expression must obey and follow this existing law.”

Under the amendments approved on Friday, judges can release on bail those charged under the law. Also, only people directly affected by an alleged offence, or those with the permission of an affected person, can press charges under the law, first introduced in 2013.

The maximum jail sentence was also cut to two years from three. Yet the law's most contentious clause, which broadly prohibits the use of the telecommunications network to "extort, defame, disturb or intimidate" remains in place.

The bill passed by lower house with some minor amendments to the bill sent by upper house will be forwarded to upper house again and if it is not passed by the upper house, the amendment bill will be sent to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (joint sitting of both houses) for a third reading.

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