On 29th August, a prominent Myanmar filmmaker and founder of Human Dignity Film Institute (HDFI) named Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was sentenced to 1 year in prison for criticising the military-drafted 2008 Constitution on a Facebook post.
Earlier, he was arrested on April 2019 after the Myanmar Military filed a complaint against him for “insulting and defaming the army” on his Facebook page. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi remained in detention for more than four months before the court sentenced him to 1 year in prison on 29th August.
He was charged under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code. Section 505(a) criminalises any statements or rumours “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.”
He was also charged under the Section 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law for defamation but the court has not yet decided whether to proceed with the 66(d) case.
Unfortunately, the filmmaker is a cancer patient. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi has liver cancer and needs regular check-ups and medicines. After spending more than four months in prison without adequate healthcare his health has started to slowly decline.
He admitted to the reporters after his hearing that, he did not know if he would receive treatment in prison for his liver cancer. He is currently serving his sentence in the notorious Insein prison, Yangon.
In 2016, Myanmar ended five decades of military-dominated government when an elected civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi took office. However, constitutional provisions adopted under military rule ensure the army a major role in government, and initial liberalization of restrictive press laws did not end till date. Efforts to hinder free speech with reporters and activists continuing to face legal challenges under laws covering defamation and online activities.