YANGON, Myanmar – A Myanmar filmmaker was sentenced to one year in prison on Thursday for criticizing the country’s military on Facebook, sparking criticism from human rights defenders.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, suffering from liver cancer, was detained in April for criticizing the military’s role in politics and the Myanmar constitution in his Facebook post.
After nearly five months of pretrial detention, he was sentenced to a year in prison by the Insein Township Court in Yangon on grounds of breaking a colonial-era law that bans statements potentially causing a soldier to mutiny.
However, defense lawyer Robert San Aung told EFE that he would discuss the matter with Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi’s family about the possibility of appealing the verdict.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, after coming out of the court, told media that people should not worry as he would soon be released.
He said everyone should march together with their leaders for reforms to the constitution adopted in 2008 when the country was under military rule.
The constitution was designed by the junta so that the military retained much of its power after the transition to what they called “disciplined democracy” which culminated in 2015 with Aung Suu Kyi’s party winning the elections.
However, the army still wields great influence in the country, controlling the defense ministry, 25 percent of lawmakers and considerable chunks of the economy.
“As to what Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi said, it should be clear to all that the military drafted 2008 constitution is an affront to both human rights and the principles of democracy and should be amended,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch.
Myanmar has seen little progress in spheres of freedom of expression since the party led by the country’s de facto leader Suu Kyi, who led the pro-democratic movement since the late 1980s, came to power.
This year the country was at the 138th position in the yearly index of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.
One of the most famous cases has been of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been sentenced to seven years in prison last September for investigative reporting on massacre of 10 Muslims of the Rohingya minority by the military. The two reporters were granted presidential pardon after more than a year in prison in May.