Myanmar netizens not safe yet, says Nay Phone Latt

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Blogger and activist Nay Phone Latt has called for an amendment to the 2004 Electronic Transactions Act that saw him sentenced to 15 years jail in 2008.

He made the comments following the launch of his latest book, which is a series of letters he wrote in prison before he was released during a political amnesty in 2012.

"We have some extent of freedom. But we are not safe," he said in an interview with Mizzima. "This law still exists. There are no clear definitions in the laws and anyone can be targeted.

"Most people write freely and don't worry about it, but we are always vulnerable to political change if it is not amended," he said.

Under the current law, Internet users can be sentenced for a minimum of seven years up to a maximum of 15 for writing material deemed offensive or dangerous. Critics argue that the law—enacted by the military government—is purposely vague.

While many believe it is unlikely the new government will exploit the law, bloggers and other netizens argue that they feel unsafe as long as the edict exists, and say that it is affecting free speech.

Nay Phone Latt heads the Myanmar for ICT Development Organisation (MIDO), which has joined with Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF) in a campaign to have the law amended.

Earlier this year, Communications and Information Technology Deputy Minister Thaung Tin told parliament that the law needed to be amended as soon as the telecommunications law was finalized.

Following the award of contracts to telecommunications companies Telenor and Ooredoo, the law is expected to be finalized in the following month, meaning that amendments to the 2004 Electronics Transaction Law could be on the horizon.

Nay Phone Latt’s comments come at a time of increased suspicion in regards to social media. Last Friday Deputy Communications Minister Ye Htut hinted that government would be taking steps to regulate hate speech on social media.

“We think media should go digital, and our department is willing to develop regulators and public service media training for that,” said Ye Htut. “We have to ensure people have freedom on the Internet, but we have to balance that.”
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