Burmese Journalists Detained for Alleged Defamation

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 July 2014

RANGOON — Editors from a local weekly are under investigation by the police after reporting that members of the public voted to form an interim government.

Rangoon-based Bi Mon Te  Nay newspaper published an article on Monday based on a statement by the Myanmar Democracy Continuous Force (MDCF), a political activist group, claiming that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic political forces had been selected to serve as the country’s temporary new leaders.

Thein Min Aung, reporter-in-charge of the journal, told The Irrawaddy that the journal’s editor-in-chief Naig Sai Aung, editor-in-charge Aung Thant and another editor were detained.

“Special Branch Police took our editors at around noon yesterday. The editor-in-charge was taken at around 4 in the afternoon. They still haven’t arrived back yet,” the reporter said on Tuesday morning.

“We published the news because it was released by MDCF. We have evidence,” he added.

Police Maj. Kyaw Soe confirmed the investigation to The Irrawaddy. “Yes, they are now being questioned,” he said, declining to elaborate on the case.

In state media, the government said it would take action against the journal because the article was defamatory and could lead to misunderstandings, undermine the stability of the state, and damage public interests.

It added that if investigators determine that an unofficial election did take place to vote on the formation of an interim government, action would be taken in accordance with existing laws.

On Monday, MDCF announced the statement in front of Rangoon’s City Hall, saying Suu Kyi had been elected as president of an interim government.

The three-point statement accused the current government, led by President Thein Sein, of pursuing its own interests rather than tackling unemployment, promoting labor rights and farmers’ rights, and improving the judiciary. The statement said that as a result, the people had voted for an interim government.

Htin Kyaw, a leader of the MDCF, has also been accused and convicted of defaming the government in the past, receiving a six month prison sentence in a separate case.