Burma_Myanmar bans social media use under telecoms bill

12. november 2012   A new telecommunications bill could prohibit the use of social media and unregistered gadgets in Myanmar.

Critics have lashed out against the bill, which was made public on November 7, saying it is oppressive and violates the rights of individuals.

Tin Nyunt, chief editor of the Itzen Journal, noted that one of the articles under the proposed telecommunications prohibits the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

“Article 66 needs detailed and clear definition of using social media, which is widely used across the world. If it is not explained more definitely, this paragraph will oppress freedom of speech,” said Ei Maung, the project manager of Fairway Web Development Company.

Under Article 64, “anyone who possesses or uses an electronic apparatus without licence shall be sued and punished up to three years in prison or pay a fine or both if his or her act is found guilty”.

Tin Nyunt said an electronic apparatus is defined as a telephone, fax, telex, other telecommunications materials and related accessories.

“If someone purchased any of these from unauthorised dealers, users would be sued. It seems unfair to the public,” he said.

Also, under the article, a person could be sued for owning unregistered mobile phones. “A person could also be sued if he had a laptop that can connect to Wi-fi Internet. This paragraph should be cancelled,” said Aung Myo Lwin, a member of the Myanmar Computer Professionals Association and owner of ABC Computer & Mobile Centre.

Favouring cronies

Articles 73 and 75 also authorise the government to intercept data transmission, suspend telecommunications service and the use of a licenced company’s equipment.

Ei Maung said that these two paragraphs are very controversial, explaining that the United States also enacted the Patriot Act in 2001 to intercept and obstruct “terrorism”, in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Tin Nyunt said Artilces 73 and 75 are threats to licensed telecommunications companies.

Moreover, under Article 63, “anyone who uses international inbound and outbound to call or connect without authority shall be sued and punished up to five years in prison or pay a fine or both if he or she is guilty.”

Telecoms policy

Myanmar has enacted a number of laws, including the Myanmar Telegraph Act (1885), the Myanmar Wireless Telegraphy Act (1943), the Computer Science Development Law(1996), and the Electronic Transactions Law (2004).

Should the new bill be passed into law, the Myanmar Telegraph Act (1885) and the Myanmar Wireless Telegraphy Act (1943) will be cancelled.

The Computer Science Development Law (1996) and the Electronic Transactions Law (2004), however, will remain.

Many political activists had been sentenced to long-term imprisonment because of the Electronic Transactions Law (2004), which critics said has many weaknesses and offers less protection to IT users.

Nay Bone Latt, who was imprisoned for violating the law, said the telecommunications bill is very controversial because of words such as “national security”, “rule of law and stability” and “national interest”.

The blogger said anyone who has an e-mail account might be sued under the bill. He said the proposed bill should strike a balance between protecting national security and upholding citizens’ interests.


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