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Myanmar v. Than Htaik Thu and Hsan Moe Tun

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    March 18, 2015
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment
  • Case Number
    N/A
  • Region & Country
    Myanmar, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation
  • Tags
    Journalism, Political speech

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Than Htike Thu and Hsan Moe Tun are journalists for the Myanmar Post. They were sentenced to two months in jail on March 18, 2015, after they published an article entitled “A Military Parliamentary Representative Says They Have to Take Seats in Parliament Because of Low Educational Standards”, which appeared on January 2014.

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

Than Htike Thu is the editor-in-chief of the Myanmar Post and Hsan Moe Tun is the deputy chief reporter of the same newspaper. On January 29, 2014, an article titled “A Military Parliamentary Representative Says They Have to Take Seats in Parliament Because of Low Educational Standards” was published in the newspaper. The article quoted Maj. Thien Zaw, who is a military lawmaker in the Mon State legislature. It was reported that he was upset over the headline and decided to file a complaint of defamation against the two journalists. [1] Thien Zaw stated that he was misquoted in the article. [2]

According to Tun Aung, a lawyer for the two convicted journalists, the story was sent by a freelance reporter named either Zaw Min Oo or Thalwin Maung Maung, who claimed that he had a record of the Thien Zaw interview. He then wrote a story and sent it to the newspaper by email. The email was actually presented to the court. However, Zaw Min Oo was not included in the complaint. Rather, he was presented to the court as a witness for the prosecution. [3]

On March 18, 2015, the Moulmein Township Court in Mon State found Than Htike and Hsan Moe Tun guilty of defamation under the Article 500 of Myanmar’s Ciminal Code. The two journalists were sentenced to two months in prison. [4]

[1] Myat, Bone. “Journalists Handed 2-month Prison Sentence on Defamation Charge.” The Irrawaddy, March 18, 2015. http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/journalists-handed-2-month-prison-sentence-on-defamation-charge.html

[2] “Myanmar Jails Two Journalists for Defamation.” Reuters, March 19, 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/19/us-myanmar-journalists-idUSKBN0MF0J020150319

[3] Myat, Bone. “Journalists Handed 2-month Prison Sentence on Defamation Charge.” The Irrawaddy, March 18, 2015. http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/journalists-handed-2-month-prison-sentence-on-defamation-charge.html

[4] Seston, Phoebe. “Myanmar Journalists Sentenced to Two Months.” Global Journalist, March 26, 2015. http://globaljournalist.org/2015/03/myanmar-journalists-sentenced-to-two-months/


Decision Overview

Unfortunately, the official court document could not be obtained. However, the available information strongly implies that the ruling does not respect the journalists’  right to freedom of expression.

The Myanmar Criminal Code is still from the colonial era and it has been criticized as outdated. It is reported that the sentence of both journalists mark the first time in more than 100 years that a jail term had been handed down under the provision in question, as fines are usually given. [1]

Even though Myanmar has tried to improve its record on freedom of expression since the end of the military regime in 2011, the situation is still not impressive. Many journalists have been arrested and imprisoned simply because they were doing their jobs as a journalist. The examples are the case of the Bi Mon Te Nay journalists and the Unity Five journalists. Some journalists were also banned in mid-2015 from entering the parliament because they took photos of the MPs sleeping. The impunity on the journalist Aung Kyaw Naing (aka Par Gyi), who was shot dead under military custody, is also an important example demonstrating that the freedom of press in Myanmar is still severely suppressed.

It should finally be noted that Myanmar does not guarantee freedom of expression in its national law, nor does it follow any international human rights treaty, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

[1] “Myanmar Sentences Two Reporters to Two Months Each in Jail for Defamation.” Radio Free Asia, March 18, 2015. http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/reporters-03182015165021.html


Decision Direction

Quick Info

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

Contracts Expression

Journalism is not a crime, and both journalists in this case were imprisoned simply for doing their job. Thus, this case contracts expression.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

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

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Myan., Criminal Code, art. 500

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.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


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