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December 16, 2019

Pay Attention to Freedom of Speech

  • By Khin Maung Oo
  • In the transitional period, every individual wants freedom of expression. After getting freedom of speech, what we want to say can be done verbally or in writing through print media. In the past, legal action was rarely taken if their sayings or writings were found to be untrue, apart from being sued for libel. Now true news and information with circumstantial evidence can be expressed freely. This can be said to be one of the benefits of democracy.
    At such a time when information technology is rapidly developing, we are having freedom of speech and expression more than ever, through social media, added to verbal speeches and print media. In fact, any accusations and criticism need to be proved true and should be accurate.
    Instead, unsubstantiated speeches and criticisms which had been done verbally or in writing may not be severely harmful for their deeds, but it was found that legal actions were taken against those who posted similar information on social website pages such as Facebook. That is none other than suing individuals who exercise freedom of expression, under the Myanmar Telecommunications Act. In many cases, for those who have been sued under this act, judges rarely grant bail. In this case, the accused has to spend a long time in jail during the trial process.
    The above said Telecommunications Act which was enacted on 8th October 2013, intended to control international telecommunications enterprises which came to operate in Myanmar. But later those who spread news and criticisms through social website pages were sued under section 66(D).
    It should be possible to take legal action against violators in a just and fair way in accordance with an enacted law, as prescribed by the law. In case the public claims that the law does not comply with justice and fairness—essence of law, the law is required to be amended in accord with legal procedures. Thus, very recently the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw issued a bill to amend the Telecommunications Act.
    The bill includes 6 amendments, including 66(D) mostly criticized among the people. In amending a law, probably there will be advantages and disadvantages in the bill. It was just a bill presented for the public to study beforehand and suggest. We must support advantages of the law, and simultaneously we are responsible to criticize, and point out any disadvantages found in the bill.
    At the present time, the Myanmar Telecommunications Act should be the one which can arrest a violator of the law in just and fair ways. At the same time, it needs to be the one which will not harm civil rights and development of news media freedom. Whatever it is, a law must be amended if it does not meet the needs of the current situation any longer. As for the citizens, we firmly believe that we are required to be prudent about our speeches and deeds, so as not to encounter any problems with the law.


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