Detained Journalists’ Trial Moved to Hsipaw

By Tin Htet Paing 13 July 2017

YANGON — The charges facing three detained journalists will be examined at the Hsipaw Township court on July 21 because of logistical complications and security concerns in Namhsan Township, where the trio was originally arrested, said one of the defendants’ lawyers on Thursday.

The Irrawaddy’s Lawi Weng, also known as U Thein Zaw, and U Aye Nai and Pyae Bone Aung from the Democratic Voice of Burma, were arrested on June 26 in Namhsan Township on their way back from covering a drug-burning ceremony held by ethnic armed group the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) to mark the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse.

The three journalists—and three men who drove them through the area—were charged under Article 17(1) of the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act for contacting the TNLA and were placed in detention in Hsipaw prison. They had their first court appearance in Hsipaw’s court last Friday to extend their remand and were granted the judge’s permission for their trial to begin on July 21 in Namhsan, where it was originally determined on July 4 that proceedings would be held.

Given difficulties regarding transportation to the hill town of Namhsan—which could cause inconveniences to the defendants and their family members—lawyer Daw Khin Mi Mi, who represents Lawi Weng, appealed to the Kyaukme District judge earlier this week for the case to be examined in Hsipaw Township instead.

The defense lawyer told The Irrawaddy that district judge Daw Mie Mie Win Shwe permitted the appeal on Wednesday, considering the security concerns in Namhsan region and the obstacles in traveling between the two towns.

Three defense lawyers have visited the trio in Hsipaw prison to discuss their case.

International and local press members, civil society organizations and right groups have condemned the arrest of journalists under the colonial-era statute, saying that it points to a worrying trend against media freedom in Myanmar.