Insein Township Court has given film director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi a one-year prison sentence under section 505 (A) of the Penal Code for Facebook posts critical of the Myanmar military.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is a prominent filmmaker and founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute and the Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar.
He was arrested on 12 April after a Myanmar military official accused him of defamation for a series of Facebook posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was detained in Yangon’s Insein prison, where he has been held for more than three months since his arrest. He was denied bail, despite suffering from liver cancer and undergoing a major operation earlier this year.
Myanmar’s laws are reducing the space for freedom of speech and press.
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should never have been arrested, much less prosecuted and imprisoned, for airing critical views about Myanmar's rights abusing military.
“His case shows why Myanmar's civilian government must urgently use its overwhelming majority in the Parliament to revoke laws which clearly violate the right of free expression, including Article 505(a) of the penal code and article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act,” he said following the verdict.
Robertson said the treatment of Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi has been a travesty of justice, and these laws need to be stripped off the law books so no one else will have to suffer the way he has in this ordeal.
Speaking for Human Rights Watch, Robertson said the criticism voiced by Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi regarding the military drafted 2008 Constitution was valid.
"It's shocking the court paid so little heed to Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi's precarious health situation, and the very serious illness he's suffering from. Not only has the court been unjust in its judgement but it's also been cruel in ordering his pre-trial incarceration," he said.
Commenting earlier on the case, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East and Southeast Asia Director, said: “Peaceful comments on Facebook are not a crime, even if they criticise officials, and his is yet another politically-motivated trial. The authorities should drop these vindictive charges, and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi must be immediately and unconditionally released.”