Betcha the authorities in Myanmar are fair trembling, after Amnesty International stuck its nose into the matter of the New Zealand bloke and two Myanmar men who have been accused of insulting Buddhism.
The hapless Kiwi is one Philip Blackwood, 32, who has appeared before a Myanmar court after using an image of the Buddha to promote a cheap booze night at the bar he managed.
According to this Radio NZ report:
The offending poster, which featured a psychedelic mock-up of the Buddha wearing DJ headphones, has prompted outcry in the predominantly Buddhist country, which is grappling with surging religious nationalism.
The mood could be measured by the gathering outside the court.
About a dozen monks and hardline Buddhists gathered outside the Yangon court shortly after Mr Blackwood was led into the building in handcuffs. Some two dozen riot police armed with batons were standing by.
The three accused face the prospect of a year or two inside the slammer, if found guilty of breaching the Religion Act.
Under the act, anyone who attempts to insult, destroy or damage any religion can be punished by a maximum of two years in jail, with another two-year penalty for those who try to insult religion through the written word.
On the good authority of Amnesty International, we can assure this Blackwood bloke to relax.
For starters, the charges against him and his two Myanmar mates have no basis in international law.
Moreover, the Myanmar authorities are way out of order.
Amnesty International’s New Zealand director Grant Bayldon has described the charges as out of proportion to the offence, and said Mr Blackwood’s continued imprisonment was outrageous and unacceptable.
He said the religious offence law was one of a number of unjust laws in Myanmar.
“There’s absolutely no basis under international law for prosecuting people for something as trivial and as simple as this,” Mr Bayldon told Morning Report.
“In fact freedom of expression is a right that’s enshrined in international law and should be respected.”
This would be the same right to freedom of expression that doesn’t mean a fat rat to namby-pamby lefties like Louisa Wall.
Yep. She’s the one who took Fairfax Media and its papers The Press and Marlborough Express to the Human Rights Review Tribunal over cartoons by Al Nisbet printed in May last year.
She was disinclined to be amused by the cartoons.
And she was pissed off that the Human Rights Commission took no action in response to complaints.
She said was “appalling” that the commission had not upheld a single complaint under its race relations section despite receiving more than 2000 complaints since 1993.
According to this account of the proceedings:
The cartoons depicted people taking advantage of the Government’s breakfast-in-schools programme to spend money on their vices.
Human Rights Commission acting chief mediator Penny Walker said the tribunal did not take any action on the cartoon complaints because legal advice said it had not breached section 61 of the Human Rights Act.
Wall’s counsel complained:
“These cartoons clearly should have been seen by the editors for what they were – a provocative, negative, insulting portrayal of Maori and Pacific.”
Fairfax argued that the case concerned where to draw the line.
Lawyer Robert Stewart said if Wall’s approach was taken to its logical conclusion, any material that was “disrespectful, belittling, or that mocks a group on the ground of their colour, race or ethnicity” could be restricted by section 61.
We trust Ms Wall is on the side of the Myanmar authorities in their defence of the Buddha.