Amendments to Telecoms Law Passed

By San Yamin Aung 24 August 2017

YANGON — Myanmar’s Upper House of Parliament has passed a bill amending the 2013 Telecommunications Law, as per the amendments sent back from the Lower House.

During the parliamentary session on Thursday, no Upper House lawmakers objected to the amendments that were approved in the Lower House on Aug. 18.

With the green light from the Upper House, the most controversial provision of the law, Article 66(d), which free speech advocates have called to repeal,  remains in place.

Article 66(d) has been, and still is, used to stifle political dissent, through punishment that is considered severe in relation to the crime. It has been used to charge more than 90 people with “online defamation,” including more than a dozen members of the media who have been detained and jailed.

It prohibits the use of a telecommunications network to “extort, defame, disturb or intimidate.”

But the provision, which previously carried a maximum prison sentence of up to three years, has now been reduced to two years under the amendments, in order to guarantee bail.

Myanmar’s criminal procedure states that charges that can be accompanied by three years or more in jail shall not allow bail.

Third parties will now be banned from filing cases under the law unless they are affected directly by the action or are acting on such an affected individual’s behalf, under the amendments that were approved by Parliament.

The amended law will still require permission from the Ministry of Transport and Communications to proceed, as in the original law.