Anti-Hate Speech draft law submitted to Myanmar parliament

File photo of Wirathu, head of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, commonly known by its Burmese acronym Ma-Ba-Tha. Photo: DVB
File photo of Wirathu, head of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, commonly known by its Burmese acronym Ma-Ba-Tha. Photo: DVB

Myanmar’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has submitted the initial draft of an Anti-Hate Speech Law to parliament.

Speaking to DVB today, Aung San Win, a spokesperson for the religious affairs ministry, said that the draft was passed via the president’s office to the Union Parliament, where it will be debated.

“The draft will be discussed in parliament, I believe,” he said. “Anyone can criticize the draft, and discuss whether it will truly prevent hate speech.”

The ministry spokesperson declined to comment on what punitive measures were recommended in the draft law, nor what the definition of “hate speech” would be.

An original Anti-Hate Speech draft law was drawn up by the Myanmar Interfaith Friendship Group in 2016, and had been redrafted since.

Hla Tun, one of the representatives of the Hindu community from the Interfaith Group, said that those who share hate speech online or deliver public speeches that incite hatred would be targeted by the new law.

He said that when enacted, the new law would help to prevent slander. He noted that several recent cases have involved accusations of defamation, and that many are related to race and religion.

He emphasized that the new law would not set out to threaten a person’s freedom of expression.

According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, the draft included excerpts and advice from foreign countries.

Aye Lwin, a prominent Muslim leader and one of the members of the Interfaith Group, said that anyone can criticize a religion but should not defame it.

“I think that criticism is not the same as hate speech,” he said. “To defame a person or an organization or a religion, that is real hate speech. Everyone can criticize whomever they want – but they cannot insult them.”

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