The government of Myanmar pressed on 3 April 2020 criminal charges against three street artists. The artists were arrested and charged for painting a mural to raise awareness about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The organization Human Rights Watch demanded on 8 April that the government of Myanmar should immediately drop all charges against the artists.
The artists, Zayar Hnaung, Ja Sai and Naw Htun Aung, are charged for violating Myanmar’s law that criminalizes hurtful and insulting speech against religion.
Zayar Hnuang, Ja Sai and Naw Htun Aung were arrested after strict and devout Buddhists complained about the mural portraying a grim reaper figure spreading the coronavirus that looked like a Buddhist monk, reported Human Rights Watch in a press release.
The controversial mural was painted on a wall in Myitkyina where the artists posted a photo of the finished mural on their social media accounts – but the artists quickly overpainted the mural again after they were bombarded by online hate speech, according to Human Rights Watch.
“Myanmar’s authorities caved to outrageous demands by Buddhist ultranationalists to prosecute three street artists for expressing their views. During this time the Myanmark government needs to be doing more to educate the population about the coronavirus crisis. And arresting those who are bringing attention to the issue is ridiculous. The charges should be dropped immediately,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch in Asia.
If the charges are not dropped, the three street artists will face up to two years in prison.
Source: Human Rights Watch