Burma

Military Officer to Sue Prominent Movie Director for Defamation

By Htun Htun 1 April 2019

YANGON—A military officer from the Yangon Region Command has filed a lawsuit against movie director U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, a police officer at Insein Police Station has confirmed to The Irrawaddy.

“I have no idea what they complained about so I have no comment for the time being and the police have not notified me about it,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The Yangon Region Command could not be reached for a comment. On Sunday, U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was travelling to Naypyitaw to attend a rally in support of amending the 2008 Constitution.

The Telecommunications Law was amended in August 2017 following demands from civil society organizations to scrap Article 66(d) which, according to them, has been widely used as a tool by those in positions of power to punish dissidents.

The amendment approved by the Parliament in 2017 requires prosecutions under the law to be conducted directly by the “defamed” individual, rather than by a third party, unless that party has been granted legal power by the individual. It also allows for bail to be granted to the defendant.

The maximum prison sentence was also cut to two years from three. However, the law’s most contentious clause, which broadly prohibits the use of the telecommunications network to “extort, defame, disturb or intimidate” remains in place.

“There were 77 cases filed under Article 66(d) after it was amended. This is the first time the military has filed a complaint after the article was amended,” said Maung Saung Kha, founder of Athan, a Yangon-based freedom of expression advocacy group.

He said he also has no idea why the military officer has filed a lawsuit against U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.

According to Athan, a total of 179 complaints were filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law since its enactment in 2013 through Feb. 4, 2019.

After the law was amended in August 2017, 77 cases have been filed, 24 of which were filed by government officials and lawmakers.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the founder of the Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival and has been a strong critic of the Myanmar military.

On his personal Facebook page, the filmmaker criticized the speech by the military’s deputy commander-in-chief at the Armed Forces Day event on March 27 during which he said “simply implementing the wishes of the majority, without considering whether it is correct or not, is illegal.”

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