Dishonoring Gov’t, Causing Public Distrust Motives for Eleven Media Group Lawsuit

By The Irrawaddy 11 October 2018

YANGON—One day after filing a lawsuit against three local journalists for their alleged offenses against the state, the Yangon regional government revealed their reasons behind the suing of two editors and one reporter from Eleven Media Group.

Managing editors U Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nari Min and chief reporter U Phyo Wai Win were arrested on Wednesday and charged under Article 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code for publishing “incorrect information” about the government. The plaintiff is the director of Yangon’s government office, U Aung Kyaw Khaing.

The story in question, written by U Phyo Wai Win under the pseudonym Phyo Wai, criticizes the Yangon government for wasting public money due to mismanagement, citing examples including a government loan for the purchasing of a fleet of school buses which was obtained from two private banks without Parliament’s approval and irregularities in the government’s Yangon Metropolitan Public Company, where more than 600,000 shares are under the regional planning and finance minister’s name.

The Yangon government owns 51 percent of shares in the company and the 64-billion-kyat ($41.6 million) investment was approved by Parliament.

In the public announcement made on Thursday, the Yangon Regional Government’s Office denied that the shares are under the minister’s name, saying he is involved in the company as a member of the board of directors on behalf of the government.

The statement also mentioned that 539,500 shares in the company are owned by the government while 486,000 are owned by Myanmar Construction and Development Co. Ltd., a private company mostly made up of developers.

“The incorrect information published in Weekly Eleven prompted shareholders and officials from Myanmar Construction and Development to worry about public distrust in the company, as well as dishonoring the regional government,” said the announcement citing the government’s reasons behind filing the lawsuit.

Basically, the story in question was written based on lawmakers’ discussions in parliament about the auditor general’s report on the government’s budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to Phyo Wai, the reporter-in-chief who wrote the analysis.

“As all of you see, I included [in the story] what lawmakers said. I didn’t do anything wrong,” he told the media gathered outside Tamwe Police Station on Wednesday.

Despite the government’s claim that the editors and reporter published incorrect information, lawmakers—including some from the ruling National League for Democracy party—said the story was correct.

MP Daw Sandar Min and U Kyaw Zaya told the media that the story was not wrong as it was based on what they had discussed in parliament.

The auditor general’s report on the government’s budget was discussed by more than two dozen lawmakers in the parliament in previous weeks. Despite those discussions being open to debate, none of the government nor cabinet members disputed them, so they were recorded as they were.