Myanmar Government Using Offensive Laws to Punish Critics, Says Human Rights Watch

According to a cruel report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday it stated that the Myanmar government under Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has made use of harsh and coercive laws in order to indict peaceful critics. This revelation thwarted aspiration and belief of the fact that the nation’s first democratic leader would be safeguarding the free speech.

Since Nobel laureate Suu Kyi came to power in 2016, freedom of speech in Myanmar has been worsening. According to the human rights group, prosecution has created a ‘culture of fear’ among journalists. It has been clearly mentioned in the report which has been titled, “Dashed Hopes: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Myanmar”.

The author of the report in a statement stated that Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy pledged for a new Myanmar; however, the government is still impeach peaceful speech and demonstration. The report revealed that Myanmar failed to amend the old repressive laws.

Under almost 50 years of noted military rule, the government of the country had placed harsh limitation on freedom of expression. Changes managed by the quasi-civilian administration which came to power in 2010, included the abolition of censorship, had positive impact on speech and assembly. However, the changes that were brought by Suu Kyi-led government had made only minute changes to repressive law and pursued to use unduly broad, indefinite, and rude laws to indict peaceful speech and assembly.

According to HRW, around 140 cases had been registered since 2016 under the Telecommunications Act, at least half of which consisted of prosecution for neutral speech. Parliament made some changes to section 66(d) of the act, which penalizes anyone who “maligns” someone by making use of a telecommunication network with up to two years in prison, but dismissed calls to revoke the clause.

HRW stated that reporters were chiefly unprotected to prosecution and attacks, with ultimatum coming from authorities as well as nationalists and militant supporters of the government or army.

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