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Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of the Kyaw Printing House

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    June 14, 2016
  • Outcome
    Monetary Damages / Fines, Imprisonment
  • Case Number
    N/A
  • Region & Country
    Myanmar, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, National Security, Commercial Speech
  • Tags
    National Security

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The owner of a printing house and four of his associates were prosecuted for  printing  a calendar that mentioned “Rohingya”, the name of an ethnic minority in Myanmar, and charged with causing fear or alarm to the public. On trial, the owner was acquitted but his associates were sentenced to one year in prison.

“Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.”


Facts

It has been reported that U Kyaw Kyaw Wai, the owner of the Kyaw Printing House in Yangon, and four of his associates, Ye Thu Aung, Win Naing, Zaw Min Oo, and Win Htwe, have been prosecuted for the publication of a calendar.

The calendar contained quotes from speeches of U Nu, the first Prime Minister of Myanmar, and other prominent figures from Myanmar’s early independence period describing the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar, as a distinct ethnic group. The calendar also contained a quote from a 1946 speech by Bogyoke Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, in which he invites Muslims to live in peace with the Buddhist majority.

They were initially prosecuted under the country’s Printing and Publishing Law, and subsequently under the Criminal Code. The calendar had been reported to the authorities by members of the Ma Ba Tha, a group of Buddhist-extremists in Myanmar who aim to protect “race and religion.” Over 700 copies of the calendar had been published, and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the person who had ordered the calendars.

 


Decision Overview

On November 23, 2015, the Pazundaung Township Court in Yangon fined each of the defendants 1 million kyat ($770) under Myanmar’s Printing and Publishing Law.

Immediately after, the five were arrested and charged under Article 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Criminal Code. On June 14, 2016, they were sentenced to one year in prison for publishing a statement deemed to “cause fear or alarm to the public”. It was reported that U Kyaw Kyaw Wai was released as he was not liable to legal action under Article 505 (b). At the time the ruling was handed down, police had not been able to find the person who had ordered the calendar.

 


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

Article 505 (b) of the Criminal Code, under which the publishers were convicted, states that “[w]hoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumor or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” This provision has often been used to prosecute individuals for exercising their freedom of expression as its vague wording is interpreted to restrict all sorts of statements that do not incite violence. This contradicts international human rights law, under which no individual should be convicted of public order offences such as provided under Article 505 unless there is a real likelihood that what they published or said will result in actual violence or discrimination.

The judgment sanctions individuals for the mere reprinting of quotes from statesmen from a previous era mentioning the term “Rohingya”, an ethnic group in Myanmar. Discussion of the situation of the Rohingya is a sensitive subject in Myanmar, and extremist Buddhist groups such as Ma Ba Tha have staged repeated protests against them, saying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Rohingya face serious human rights violations such as denial of citizenship, forced labor and sexual attacks, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking as thousands of them seek to leave the country every year. The United Nations states that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may constitute a “crime against humanity.”

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Myan., Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code

Other national standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.


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