Yangon Govt Bans 66(d) Opposition Signature Campaign Near Military Command

By San Yamin Aung 22 June 2017

YANGON — The Yangon divisional government banned a signature campaign organized by journalists to oppose Article 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law that was going to be held near Yangon Region Military Command, stating that the area was restricted for national security concerns.

A letter from the government came after organizers were previously pressured to change the venue to a location in the same township but away from military command. It then deemed that location restricted as well.

Ko Tha Lun Zaung Htet, who works at the Democratic Voice of Burma and is a member of the Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists, said organizers have now been told to move the campaign to Yangon’s City Hall.

“We are still processing the venue but we will continue the signature campaign as planned on Friday,” he said.

The signature campaign to repeal Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law is the second phase of the Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists movement against the article, following 10 days of wearing white armbands in solidarity.

The first phase – which involved hundreds of journalists wearing white armbands and marching from a Bahan Township courthouse to The Voice Daily’s office in support of the newspaper’s detained staff members – faced no objection from authorities.

Ko Tha Lun Zaung Htet said the military had pressured the committee members through authorities and also by contacting reporters close to members of the campaign to advise them not to collect signatures in front of the military compound.

The journalists wanted to launch the signature campaign in front of Yangon Region military command in Mayangone Township to show their opposition to the military for opening a case against two journalists from The Voice Daily for a satirical article that was published last month.

Ko Tha Lun Zaung Htet went to the Mayangone Township police station on Wednesday morning and gave notification of the event to local authorities in advance, in line with the Peaceful Assembly Law.

The chief of the Western District Police Force and the chief of the Mayangone Township Police Force summoned the committee members on Wednesday afternoon and told them to change the venue.

On Thursday, the township administration summoned them again to negotiate the venue.

“We can’t say the military pressured us directly. Authorities applied the pressure,” said Ko Tha Lun Zaung Htet.

“If they [the military] want to stop this, they should drop all lawsuits against journalists and citizens under 66(d). If not, we won’t stop,” he added.

After the signature campaign ends on July 11, the petition will be submitted to President U Htin Kyaw, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and the speakers of the Lower House and Upper House.