Bail Denied for Journalists Charged Under Controversial Defamation Law

By The Irrawaddy 30 November 2016

RANGOON — A Rangoon court dismissed bail requests from Eleven Media Group’s CEO and chief editor on Wednesday, after both were charged under the controversial Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law.

At the hearing, Tamwe Township’s court rejected the appeal for bail—put forward for health reasons—for CEO U Than Htut Aung and chief editor U Wai Phyo.

The two were sued by the Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein on. Nov. 9 over an editorial headlined “A Year After the Nov. 8 Poll” written by U Than Htut Aung.

It claimed that a chief minister whose monthly salary is only around US$2,500 wears a Patek Philippe watch worth an estimated US$100,000 and claimed the watch was presented by a wealthy benefactor. The article was featured in the Nov. 6 issue of Eleven Media’s daily newspaper and was reposted to U Than Htut Aung’s Facebook account.

The two defendants are being held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, with their next court hearing scheduled for Dec. 9.

Meanwhile, a Naypyidaw-based reporter has also been arrested under the same charge of defamation, under Article 66(d).

Journalist U Maung Maung Tun from News Watch journal was arrested on Tuesday night, after being sued by freelancer U Zaw Min Aung, who has written for The Mirror, a state-run daily newspaper.

U Maung Maung Tun wrote a response to one of U Zaw Min Aung’s interviews, which had covered the swift set-up of Naypyidaw’s Myo Ma market within 100 days of the new government taking office. U Maung Maung Tun referred to this article in his own story, citing it as having cheated readers and proliferating misinformation.

Article 66(d) dates back to the administration of former President Thein Sein, yet the law continues to be used particularly by security forces to punish those critical of them.