Myanmar journalist jailed for 'abusive' Suu Kyi posts

Myanmar journalist jailed for 'abusive' posts about Aung San Suu Kyi
3 min read
19 September, 2018
Ngar Min Swe was sentenced for sedition on Tuesday, Yangon's Western District Court spokesman Htay Aung confirmed.

Aung San Suu Kyi has faced international condemnation for the treatment of Muslims [Getty]

A former columnist for state media has been jailed for seven years for "abusive" Facebook posts about Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a court official said on Wednesday, the latest case threatening free expression in the country. 

Ngar Min Swe was sentenced for sedition on Tuesday, Yangon's Western District Court spokesman Htay Aung told AFP.

"He was convicted... for writing abusive posts on Facebook against State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, making people get the wrong impression of her," Htay Aung said. 

Ngar Min Swe worked as a columnist under the previous military-backed government. He has spent the years since Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party rose to power in 2016 penning screeds against her and the party. 

He was arrested on 12 July, the same day he posted about Suu Kyi receiving a kiss on the cheek from US President Barack Obama during his state visit in 2013.

This innocuous gesture of greeting came in for criticism from a conservative Myanmar public, especially supporters of the army-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party - like Ngar Min Swe - who took to social media to make sexist inferences about the state counsellor. 

Myanmar faces widespread condemnation for infringing on freedom of expression following the jailing earlier this month of two Reuters journalists who reported on the Rohingya crisis.

Genocide

In August, United Nations investigators called for an international probe and prosecution of senior figures in Myanmar's army for genocide against the country's Rohingya minority.

"Myanmar's top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States," a UN-backed fact-finding mission said.

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled over the border to Bangladesh, since August, to escape a bloody military crackdown that has left a trail of torched villages in its wake as refugees allege murder and rape by Myanmar's armed forces.

Myanmar's security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes. The UN and the US have described the army crackdown as "ethnic cleansing".

The government has denied the accusations, instead blaming the violence on Rohingya insurgents alleging they attacked security posts triggering reprisals. It is the latest exodus of the population that has long been denied citizenship and other basic rights.

The mission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, concluded in a report that "there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) chain of command".

"The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts," the report said.

The investigators named Min Aung Hlaing and five other top military commanders, adding that a longer list of names could be shared with "any competent and credible body pursuing accountability in line with international norms and standards".

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was also criticised, with the report finding that she had "not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events". 

While acknowledging that she and other civilian authorities had little influence on military actions, it said that they "through their acts and omissions... have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes".

The investigators called on the UN Security Council to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court, or for an ad-hoc international criminal tribunal to be created.

They also recommended an arms embargo and "targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible".

Agencies contributed to this report.

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