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Burma: Use of Electronic Law to Imprison Dissidents

(Dec. 5, 2008) The Government of Burma's recent use of the country's Electronic Law to charge dissidents and hand out long sentences is having a chilling effect on Internet use, according to recent media reports. (Long Prison Terms Under Electronic Law Intimidate Internet Users in Burma, MIZZIMA NEWS (New Delhi), Nov. 28, 2008, available at In late November 2008, long sentences were announced for blogger Nay Phone Latt, comedian Zarganar, and sports columnist Zaw Thet Htwe. Zarganar was given an additional 14 years in prison, on top of the initial sentence of 45 years, on November 27, in four cases against him heard in Insein Prison's court. The total sentence of 19 years of imprisonment given to the sports columnist was reportedly due to his assistance to cyclone victims in the Irrawaddy Delta.

The Electronic Law contains provisions establishing long prison terms for disseminating news that is considered to tarnish the image of the government. According to San Moe Wei of the advocacy group Burma Media Association, located in Thailand, most of those charged under this law were framed, and, he states, “[t]his is a repressive law designed to suppress and intimidate dissidents, journalists, and political activists who wish to see political change.” (Id.)