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Stop criminalising peaceful speech in Myanmar: rights organisation

NYAN LYNN AUNG the myanmar Times Friday February 1,  2019

The government should stop using criminal laws against peaceful speech and assembly and undertake legislative reforms to better protect freedom of expression, assembly, and the media, Human Rights Watch said.

In a report on freedom of media and expression in Myanmar released Thursday, the international human rights group said Myanmar’s first democratically elected civilian government in decades has prosecuted large numbers of peaceful critics in violation of basic human rights.

“Concerned governments should press Myanmar to protect the rights to expression and assembly, and reform laws penalising peaceful speech to bring them in line with international standards,” HRW said.

The 87-page report, “Dashed Hopes: The Criminalisation of Peaceful Expression in Myanmar,” documents the National League for Democracy-led government’s use of broad and vaguely worded laws against activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens.

The report, based on interviews in Myanmar and analysis of legal and policy changes since 2016, examines the use of laws such as the Telecommunications Law, Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, and Myanmar’s penal code.

“Abuses against the press under Myanmar’s new government have been particularly striking,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal adviser for Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

Lakhdhir said the NLD promised a new Myanmar, but the government still prosecutes peaceful speech and protests and has failed to revise old oppressive laws.

According to the HRW, the government’s use of Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law has soared. That law and others that make defamation a criminal offense have been repeatedly used to prosecute people criticising or “insulting” the government or military, or who cast them in an unfavourable light.

The report added that journalists have been arrested under the Telecommunications Law, Unlawful Associations Act, Official Secrets Act, News Media Law, and Aircraft Act of 1934 and have been denied access to conflict areas and to information about government policies and programmes. More than 45 protesters have also been arrested, with most facing charges under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

“It’s not too late to reverse course and take steps to fully protect speech and assembly in Myanmar,” it said.

From: the myanmar Times (myanmar) Friday February 1, 2019

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