‘Big rooster’ given two years for defama­tion

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - TOE WAI AUNG toe­wa­iaung@mm­times.com

The so­cial me­dia satirist was slapped with a two-year prison sen­tence in re­la­tion to sev­eral posts tak­ing aim at se­nior mem­bers of the pre­vi­ous govern­ment lead­er­ship.

THE Mayan­gone Town­ship Court has found Ko Hla Phone guilty of de­fam­ing top govern­ment of­fi­cials in a se­ries of Face­book posts, with the judge hand­ing down a two-year prison sen­tence for the of­fend­ing in­sults.

The case was opened ear­lier this year by Lieu­tenant Colonel Soe Win Maw of the Yangon Re­gion Com­mand un­der the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law and other crim­i­nal statutes.

A string of posts from the Face­book ac­count of “Kyat Pha Gyi” – mean­ing “big rooster” in Myan­mar lan­guage – from Oc­to­ber 2015 to Fe­bru­ary took aim at se­nior mem­bers of the pre­vi­ous govern­ment lead­er­ship. One pro­claimed, “Fuck 25 per­cent”, an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the one-quar­ter allotment of mil­i­tar­ily ap­pointed seats in par­lia­ment, along­side an emage of a dog defe­cat­ing on Se­nior Gen­eral U Min Aung Hlaing.

Then-Pres­i­dent U Thein Sein was also the sub­ject of the ac­count owner’s de­ri­sion.

Through­out his trial, Ko Hla Phone had de­nied that the ac­count is his, a po­si­tion he re­it­er­ated to jour­nal­ists after the guilty ver­dict was handed down on Novem­ber 11.

“I am the vic­tim. I am not the owner of that [Face­book] ac­count. As it is, I will con­tinue de­fend­ing my­self,” Ko Hla Phone said when he was brought to the court­house last week.

His lawyer, U Robert San Aung, posted on Face­book that they would ap­peal the rul­ing.

In de­fence of his client’s claims, U Robert San Aung pointed out that the of­fend­ing Face­book ac­count con­tin­ued to make sim­i­lar dis­parag­ing posts after Ko Hla Phone was ar­rested and de­nied bail, de­priv­ing him of ac­cess to an in­ter­net-en­abled de­vice, the lawyer’s ar­gu­ment goes.

Ko Hla Phone’s ac­tual Face­book ac­count is un­der the name “Ko Phone”, ac­cord­ing to U Robert San Aung.

Last week’s ver­dict saw the de­fen­dant found guilty of four charges and sen­tenced to six months’ im­pris­on­ment for each. The charges in­cluded sec­tion 66(d) of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law, cov­er­ing defama­tion, and the pe­nal code’s sec­tion 505(b), com­mit­ting “an of­fence against the State or against pub­lic tran­quil­lity”, as well as a vi­o­la­tion of a Union Flag Law pro­vi­sion on re­spect­ing the na­tional ban­ner.

The nine months that Ko Hla Phone spent be­hind bars as the trial pro­ceeded will be de­ducted from his two-year sen­tence.

Un­der the Na­tional League for Democ­racy govern­ment, on­line con­duct has con­tin­ued to land Myan­mar na­tion­als in prison, par­tic­u­larly via the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law’s defama­tion pro­vi­sion. Last week Yangon Re­gion Chief Min­is­ter U Phyo Min Thein an­nounced that he had filed a law­suit against the CEO and chief edi­tor of Eleven Me­dia Group over a story in which the news out­let im­plied an un­savoury link be­tween him­self and a lo­cal busi­ness­man.

The ac­cused turned them­selves in to po­lice on Novem­ber 11 and re­main de­tained await­ing trial.

– Trans­la­tion by Kyawt Darly Lin

‘I am the vic­tim. I am not the owner of that [Face­book] ac­count ... I will con­tinue de­fend­ing my­self.’ Ko Hla Phone De­fen­dant in ‘big rooster’ case

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