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Published on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 16:16
Communications and Information Technology Deputy Minister Thaung Tin speaks in parliament about the Electronic Transactions Act (Photo - Pyithu Hluttaw Facebook Page)
The Electronic Transactions Act should be revoked after a new telecom law is enacted, Communications and Information Technology Deputy Minister Thaung Tin told parliament yesterday.
Thaung Tin also urged parliament to enact new legislation that encouraged the country’s youth to be innovative and creative with information technology and contributed to the development of e-commerce.
This legislation should be created with the help of international legal and IT experts after consultations with MPs, relevant ministries, and entrepreneurs and IT experts in Myanmar, the deputy minister said.
Thaung Tin was responding to a recommendation from MP Thein Nyunt (Thingangyun constituency, Yangon Region) that the government revoke the Electronic Transactions Act.
Thein Nyunt said the Act was a threat to free speech and could be used to target media professionals. It also prevents citizens from enjoying the right to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”, which is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Electronic Transactions Act was passed by the previous government with very little discussion and some of its provisions violate the Constitution while others can be politicised, Thein Nyunt said.
“Before the emergence of a new e-commerce law, provisions from the Electronic Transactions Act mentioned in Chapter XII’s Offences and Penalties [section] should be amended in line with the current era and this Act should only be revoked after the new [telecom] law has been enacted,” said Thaung Tin.
Thein Nyunt said he welcomed the deputy minister’s suggestion and would work on amending the penalty provisions.
Scores of political activists have been sentenced to prison under the Electronic Transactions Act.
Zaw Thet Htwe, who was sentenced to 15 years under the Act, said it was flawed from the outset, explaining that it was passed in 2004 “to control information sent to other countries”.
“The maximum term of imprisonment is 15 years, but because a person can be sentenced to 15 years for sending one email there have been times when people have been sentenced to 45 years for sending three emails,” Zaw Thet Htwe said. “I view it as an Act that violates freedom of expression,” he said, adding that if it was amended penalties for breaking it should be fines or a maximum of three months in prison.
People who use the Internet will continue to face fear if the threat of harsh prison terms remains.