Detained Journalists Reapply for Bail in Unlawful Association Trial

By The Irrawaddy 11 August 2017

HSIPAW, Shan State — The lawyers of three detained journalists submitted a bail request for the second time, after the Hsipaw Township Court rejected the initial appeal last week.

At Friday’s court hearing, lawyers appealed for bail for six men including three journalists from The Irrawaddy and DVB who were detained while reporting in the area by the military and later charged under Article 17(1) of the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act.

The court heard a witness [a local resident] from the prosecutor’s side on Friday but a military official who was scheduled to appear at the court for testimony did not show, with the excuse given that he was on military duty.

The defendant’s lawyers stated at the court that they requested bail again as the accusations against the journalists were not strong enough to build a case or charge them under the Unlawful Associations Act.

After the court hearing, the police sent the journalists directly back to Hsipaw Prison, where they have been detained for 46 days, despite a request made to leave them in police custody behind the court for a half hour to have lunch and meet with family members.

The three journalists—Irrawaddy senior reporter Lawi Weng (U Thein Zaw) and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reporters U Aye Naing and Ko Pyae Phone Aung—were arrested on June 26 while covering a drug-burning ceremony in Ta’ang National Liberation Army-controlled area.

“The case has been wrong from the start. We were denied bail… this is an intentional threat against us and the next generation to stop reporting on and contacting ethnic armed groups. But nothing will frighten our colleagues,” U Aye Naing of the DVB told reporters outside of the court before being sent back to prison.

Supporters and family members of the journalists shouted at the court to stop oppressing the media.

The court will rule on the bail appeal on August 18.