Freelance Photographer Detained over Facebook Post Mocking Authorities

By Zarni Mann & Kyaw Phyo Tha 27 February 2015


A freelance photographer from Monywa was detained by local authorities on Friday for posting a satirical photo on his Facebook page that mocked authorities.

According to one of the photographer’s close friends who wished to remain anonymous, Aung Nay Myo was first questioned by local Special Branch police officers on suspicion of possessing illicit drugs.

“It was 3am in the morning and the Special Branch guys came to his home and said they were looking for drugs,” said the friend. “Since they found nothing related to drugs, they took him to the station and seized his computer, hard-disks and memory cards.”

He added, “When we contacted the police and authorities, they said they received a message from an informer about drugs. But later, we found out that the arrest was connected to his posts on Facebook.”

A complaint letter sent by a Special Branch officer to the Monywa Police Station accused Aung Nay Myo and “accomplices” of posting fabricated photos and text aimed at “harming, deterring and disturbing” the functions of government.

The letter requested that action be taken against Aung Nay Myo under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act.

The satirical image was a photoshopped version of an advertisement for an action movie called “Kun Lon 40 Days,” depicting a battle in Kun Lon near Laukkai in northern Shan State between forces from the Communist Party of Burma and the Burma Army from November 1971.

The letter alleges that in the photoshopped version posted by Aung Nay Myo, President Thein Sein and former junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe are described as writing and producing the film.

The offending image also features the faces of notable officials, including Burma Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann and Information Minister Ye Htut, photoshopped onto the bodies of men in military gear. The film title has been changed to read “Condom 40 Days.”

A duty officer from Monywa police station confirmed that Aung Nay Myo had been detained and said that he would be charged under section 5 (a) and 5 (e) of the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, both of which carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Ant Bwe Kyaw of the 88 Generation Students, who is a close friend of Aung Nay Myo, told The Irrawaddy that he believed the photographer was targeted for his political activism.

“I don’t agree with what they did to Aung Nay Myo. For me, the case is intentionally orchestrated to trouble a person who is politically active,” Ant Bwe Kyaw said. “He is always helpful to the 88 Generation Students, the National League for Democracy, and finally to the students who are now on the march for education reform. He simply annoyed the authorities.”

At around 5 pm on Friday, Aung Nay Myo was transferred to Monywa Prison, and had a short meeting with family members, according to his sister Pont Pont.

“He said nothing about the case but said to [come and] see him again on Monday,” she told The Irrawaddy.