Seven years in jail for former columnist who made 'abusive' posts about Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi pictured at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sept 13, 2018.
Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi pictured at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sept 13, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (AFP) - 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 (Sept 19), in 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," Mr Htay Aung said.

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.

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

He was arrested on July 12, the same day he posted about Ms 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.