A Prison Sentence for a Facebook Image Shows How Restrictive Burma’s Anti-Free-Speech Laws Have Become
Last week, a Burmese court sentenced New Zealander Philip Blackwood to two and a half years in prison for a Facebook image. The picture was a depiction of Buddha wearing headphones that Blackwood used to advertise a bar he managed in Yangon called VGastro.
Burma is 90 percent Buddhist, so it’s certainly possible to see how that image might piss people off, but Blackwood’s action was also apparently illegal. Under Section 295(a) ofBurma’s Penal Code, it is a criminal offense to undertake “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” Blackwood maintains that he never deliberately sought to offend Buddhism, and the incident has ignited an international discussion over the charge and the motives behind it.