Today’s conviction of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is further evidence of the grave threats faced by those who criticise the Myanmar military, said ARTICLE 19. The Myanmar government must immediately and unconditionally release Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, end the judicial harassment of government and military critics, and reform laws that restrict the right to freedom of expression.
“The conviction of Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a leading civil society and human rights figure, demonstrates the extreme vulnerability of outspoken activists and artists in contemporary Myanmar,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “While official persecution of those voicing critical opinions is nothing new, such flagrant retaliation against political speech is deplorable and sets a troubling example as Myanmar approaches the 2020 elections.”
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a documentary filmmaker and founder of the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival, was today convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment by a Yangon court under section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which concerns the publication or circulation of statements ‘with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such’.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was arrested on 12 April 2019 after he made Facebook posts critical of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution and the role it gives the military in government. A separate charge under section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act, which penalises online defamation, is pending.
In April 2019, a court denied Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi bail despite the fact that he has serious health concerns stemming from liver cancer. Over the course of his trial, human rights organizations expressed grave concern over his detention under such conditions. Speaking from Insein prison on 17 July 2019, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi noted that he had missed a post-operation medical check relating to the removal of cancerous growths from his liver.
ARTICLE 19 has repeatedly called for the reform of various provisions of the Penal Code, Telecommunications Law, and other laws that criminalise freedom of expression.
“Today’s verdict marks another example of the ludicrous application of justice in Myanmar at the expense of those championing freedom and accountability,” said Matthew Bugher.“The military’s grip on justice processes should be a concern not only for activists and critics, but also for all those who care about democracy, human rights and Myanmar’s future.”