By now, everyone in Myanmar is familiar with the notorious Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law, which is meant to prevent the ‘extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person by using any Telecommunications Network.’
As of mid-November, at least 29 people have been charged under Section 66(d), and those convicted can be handed a fine and a maximum three-year prison sentence.
The reality of Section 66(d), however, is that it’s mainly been used as a way to punish anyone who criticizes the Myanmar military and government.
This cartoon by artist Okka Kyaw Win does a great job of explaining the problem:
On the left is a thief who is running away with stolen items. On the right, is ‘Facebook’, who is taking a picture of the crime, presumably to upload online. Instead of trying to hide his face or run away, the thief points at Facebook and shouts ’66(d)’, which seems to scare Facebook.
While the cartoon is funny, it’s also terrifyingly accurate. The majority of people who have been charged under Section 66(d) were done so due to something that they uploaded onto Facebook, which is by far the most popular social network in Myanmar and one of the main channels by which people spread and receive news.
Ever since the creation of Section 66(d), citizens have become hesitant to publicly share anything on Facebook, even if they’re actually pointing out someone else’s wrongdoing.
Most recently, the CEO and editor-in-chief of Eleven Media were charged under this law due to a piece they wrote implying that Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein had taken a bribe. In response to the case, several press organizations released a joint statement in which they described Section 66(d) as “a tool to limit people’s freedom of expression, which is the lifeblood of democracy”.