Detained Eleven Media CEO and Editor Released on Bail

By San Yamin Aung 6 January 2017

RANGOON—Eleven Media Group’s CEO and chief editor, who were charged under the controversial Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law, have beenreleased on 50 million kyats bail after being detained for nearly two months.

Tamwe Township court accepted the bail requests—put forward for health reasons—forCEO U Than HtutAung and chief editor U WaiPhyo at the court hearing on Friday. The court had denied the bail three times previously.

Defense lawyer U KyeeMyint told The Irrawaddy that the CEO’s deteriorating health became visible at the previous hearing, and that he had received medical treatment in court. U Than HtutAung suffered a heart attack during his time in detention and also arrived at past hearings in an ambulance.

The two defendants had been held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison since Nov. 11. They were sued by Rangoon Division’s chief minister U Phyo Min Thein on Nov. 9 over an editorial headlined “A Year After the Nov. 8 Poll,” written by U Than HtutAung.It claimed that a chief minister whose monthly salary is only around US$2,500 wore a Patek Philippe watch worth an estimated US$100,000. The article also suggested that the watch was a gift from a wealthy benefactor. It was featured in the Nov. 6 issue of Eleven Media’s daily newspaper and was reposted to U Than HtutAung’s Facebook account.

The case appeared to be the firstuse of the controversial law against the media under the new National League for Democracy-led government.

Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law states that anyone found guilty of extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person by using any telecommunications network shall be punished with a maximum of three years in prison, a fine, or both.

Eleven Media issued apologies for their editorial last month. Yet the secretary of the Rangoon divisional government has said that the defamation charges against Eleven Media Group will not be dropped.

The next court hearing will be held on Jan 13.