Patrick Kum Jaa Lee, a peace activist from Myanmar, was sentenced on January 22 by Hlaing township court to six months in prison over posting images on Facebook mocking the military. The activist was charged with defamation under section 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.
Patrick, a 43 year-old social worker, was arrested on October 14, 2015, by Burmese Special Branch police. The charges against him referred to Facebook posts presenting satirical content about Burmese military Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The Chief Senior General was portrayed “being trodden underfoot”.
According to Myanmar Times, the post was shared by Patrick on October 9, 2015, reading:
“If you share this picture, action will be taken against you. Please share that sharing such a picture is dangerous”
On his conviction, anti-military posts on Patrick’s Facebook account were mentioned as a factor in his conviction. The judge added that the defamatory content goes “against the cultural and customary context of our country”.
Patrick was arrested on the same month where another political activist in Myanmar, Chaw Sandi Tun, was arrested for posting satirical content about the military on Facebook. Both were convicted and sentenced to six months behind bars under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law, which contains broad definitions of defamation.
According to the Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom of the Net report, Myanmar freedom status has worsened from “Partly Free” in 2014 to “Not Free” in 2015. Myanmar is ranked among the worst violators of freedom of the net, with a total score of 63 (being the worst score 100).
The report documented an increasing number of Internet users who have been arrested by the government due to their online activities. Among them, 3 men who was sentenced to two years in prison each for insulting religion on Facebook. Furthermore, social media users are prompted by government officials to refrain from sharing content which is deemed to be offensive towards the military or the government.