Lawsuits against free expression reach 54% after telecom law amendment

Wai Tun Naung

Following the amendment to the controversial Telecommunications Law, filing a lawsuit against writings over free expression has increased to 54 percent, according to a report published by Athan, a group of activists working for freedom of expression.

The report was published to mark the first anniversary of the amended law.

"We conducted a survey based on 48 cases that emerged one year after the law amendment under the new government. We can say that there should not have been 54 percent at all. These are all meant to impede freedom of expression," Hsaung Kha from the group told the Daily Eleven.

In the 48 cases filed under the Telecommunications Law, 54 percent is related to free expression, 25 percent cyber crime, 11 percent social problems and 10 percent other issues. Most cases are related to free expression.

Civil society organisations working on press freedom formed a coalition to urge the government to abolish the Section 66 (d) as it is contradictory detriment to the democratic cause. The government, however, didn't abolish the section. Instead, only some changes occurred such as reducing some points in the provision, reducing jail sentence, increasing potential for bail and restricting cases in which a third party launches a suit.   

There have been 150 lawsuits filed under the Telecommunications Law since it was enacted in October 2013. There were 11 cases under the previous government. Under the ruling government, there were 91 cases before the law amendment and 48 after the amendment.

After the law amendment, most cases have been filed in relation to political criticisms accounting for 23 percent.

The report stresses the need to pass a cyber law that carries international standards and guarantees rights of free expression. It also urges state leaders, parliamentary representatives and departmental heads to withdraw from their lawsuits against those under the Telecommunications Law.