Govt considering 66(d) amendments after runaway defamation complaints

By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER

NAY PYI TAW — After a number of high profile prosecutions, the Union Attorney General’s Office has filed recommendations for amending the defamation clause of the Telecommunications Law.

However, the office appears to have stopped short of recommending the removal of criminal defamation provisions outlined under Section 66(d) of the law, instead suggesting that future investigations require the issue of a warrant before suspects are arrested.

“It has been regarded as cognisable offence before and it still is at the moment,” said Daw Nu Nu Yin, a member of the office’s permanent secretariat, at a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday.

“Some cases are considered to require the advance permission of ministries before they are filed, and some are not. According to the current laws, there are some cases which can be granted bail.”

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Civil society groups have become increasingly vocal in their calls for reform to the 2013 law, following a number of prosecutions levelled against social media users critical of the government and the military.

Maung Saungkha, a poet jailed under the law in the final months of the last government who is now heading the Research Team for Telecommunications Law advocacy group, told Frontier he supported the proposed changes.

“I don’t think it would be a success to just abolish this law,” he said. “According to the current situation, by amending the law there will be less people facing trials under these cases. I hope we can change to a situation where the defendants can face trials with bail and with dignity.”

According to his group’s data, there have been a total of 63 cases brought under Section 66(d) since the law was enacted, 56 of which were filed since the National League for Democracy took office in April 2016.

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