Freedom on social media? asks Ms Turkey and a journalist

(Pak Destiny) After former Ms Turkey – Merve Büyüksaraç – facing up to two years in prison for “insulting” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, on social media, a journalist in Myanmar was detained by police in connection with a satirical image he posted on Facebook about renewed hostilities between government forces and an ethnic rebel group in the country’s northeastern Shan State, according to news reports. Aung Nay Myo was released today without charge.
Merve Büyüksaraç, an industrial designer and writer, faces up to two years in prison for an Instagram post that prosecutors claim “insulted” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, her lawyer said.
The former Miss Turkey is accused of the crime of insulting a public official and Umut Tepe, an Istanbul prosecutor, is demanding that she is charged and given a sentence of one to two years in prison, according to Emre Telci.
Ms Büyüksaraç shared a quote from the satirical The Master’s Poem – in which verses from the Turkish national anthem are used to criticise Mr Erdoğan.
The 26-year-old said she “may have quoted a poem” believed to be from Uykusuz, a Turkish satirical magazine, but soon deleted it after a friend warned her she could have committed a crime.
Cihan news agency reported that she told a prosecutor at Çağlayan court: “I don’t precisely recall the content I have shared on my Instagram account. However, I might have taken excerpts from Twitter, other social media websites or the cartoon magazine Uykusuz.
“I did not personally adapt the poem titled ‘The Poem of the Chief’. I shared it because it was funny to me. I did not intend to insult Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”
The former model, who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2006, was detained in January and in the intervening period, her remarks have been investigated.
Now an Istanbul court will decide on whether to proceed with the case, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
It is the latest in a series of crackdowns by the country on social media and on individuals, which critics say is indicative of the country’s lurch towards authoritarian rule.
In December last year a 16-year-old was arrested for also “insulting” the president and a report from Twitter earlier this month showed Turkey is the nation which makes the most content removal requests.
Mr Tepe does not believe Ms Büyüksaraç’s remarks were an example of freedom of speech and in his indictment wrote: “The remarks shared by the suspect could not be considered within the terms of freedom of expression.”
Ms Büyüksaraç argued she did not intend to offend Mr Erdoğan: “I shared it because I found it funny. I had no intention of insulting [Erdoğan].”
In the case of journalist Aung Nay Myo’s unwarranted detention over the weekend sends a signal to all journalists that they could be next for criticizing the deteriorating security situation in Myanmar’s various ethnic conflict zones,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on Thein Sein’s government to stop using national security laws to threaten the press and to allow journalists to report freely from both sides in conflict areas.”

Aung Nay Myo, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested at his home in Monywa town on accusations of violating the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, according to news reports. Police officials searched his house, initially saying they were looking for drugs, then confiscated his diary, laptop, USB sticks, and closed circuit television equipment, the reports said.

The accusations stemmed from an altered image that Aung Nay Myo posted on his personal Facebook page. The image was of a movie poster about a 1971 battle between China-backed communist rebels and the Myanmar army, news reports said. The altered image superimposed portraits of current government leaders, including Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing, in a satirical manner, news reports said.

The image was posted after government officials were quoted in news reports accusing “Chinese mercenaries” of assisting ethnic Kokang rebels near the two countries’ shared border. The Myanmar government declared martial law in the area in mid-February after armed clashes between the two sides resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, according to reports.

Aung Nay Myo was arrested following a complaint that was sent to the Monyma police station by Special Branch Police, which said the altered image and satirical text aimed at “harming, deterring, and disturbing” the government and recommended filing charges against Aung Nay Myo and unnamed “accomplices” under the Emergency Provisions Act, according to the exile-run news outlet Irrawaddy. Convictions under the law carry up to seven years in prison.

Reporters are regularly targeted in Myanmar’s various armed conflict zones, including in eastern Shan and northern Kachin states, CPJ research shows. Freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing was shot dead in October while being held in military custody, according to news reports. An autopsy showed he may have been tortured before he was executed. No military officials have been brought to account for his death. — Agencies/Pak Destiny

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