By Kyaw Ye Lynn
A social media user in Myanmar has been given a six-month sentence for defaming de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite calls from civil society organizations to amend the country’s notorious defamation laws.
Zaw Zaw (aka Ngaphar) was arrested in October and charged under section 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law for posting text and photos on Facebook that were considered defamatory toward State Counselor Suu Kyi and President Htin Kyaw.
A court in North Dagon Township of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, handed him the jail sentence with hard labor, according to police Tuesday.
"He was taken to the Insein Central Prison to serve his jail term," Than Htut Naing, a local police officer at North Dagon Police Station, told Anadolu Agency.
Though the once self-isolated country is now ruled by a civilian government led by Suu Kyi, rights groups warn of an escalation in the suppression of opposition critics by state authorities.
According to a campaign led by a group of civil society activists -- most of whom were imprisoned under the law -- lawsuits over “defamatory” Facebook posts about state leaders and public social affairs are on the rise.
At least 43 cases have been filed under section 66(d) during the current government, which took office in March 2016, according to activist Maung Saung Kha, who was imprisoned for a post in 2015.
"It is terrible that the elected government is still using this article that intends to shut the mouth of the public," he told Anadolu Agency by phone Tuesday.
The group is calling on the government and Parliament to amend the section, which criminalizes defamation on the Internet with a penalty of up to three years in prison.
"We have submitted our recommendations and researches about that section to parliament," Maung Saung Kha said.
"The section should no longer exist as freedom of expression is vital in democracy."