Japanese Newspaper Apologizes to Commander-in-Chief over Interview

By Htun Htun 25 February 2019

YANGON—Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun has issued an official apology to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief after the latter complained to the Myanmar Press Council over alleged inaccuracies in an interview with Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

The Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army) filed a complaint with the council on Feb. 16, apparently upset that the Asahi Shimbun had failed to honor its agreement to show the senior general a draft of the interview prior to publication. The interview was conducted in Naypyitaw on Feb. 14.

“Yes, we filed a complaint, and Asahi Shimbun gave us an apology. As it sent us a formal apology, it can be said that the case is settled now,” Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team told The Irrawaddy. Myanmar’s military is commonly referred to as the Tatmadaw.

The senior general had asked to see a draft of his interview with the Japanese newspaper’s Yangon bureau chief, Ryuta Sometaya, to prevent any mistakes or misunderstandings. However, the newspaper published the story the following day on its Japanese-language website without doing so.

In its complaint, the Myanmar Army said the Japanese newspaper failed to report the interview correctly and precisely, and therefore breached Chapter 4, Paragraph 9 (a) of the Media Law and Chapter 10, Para 33 (c) of the Media By-law.

The Myanmar Press Council has asked the Myanmar Army to clarify which parts of the Asahi Shimbun’s story it believes could cause misunderstanding. The website of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief has itself published the entire interview in both Burmese and English.

U Myint Kyaw, joint secretary 1 of the press council, said, “In my view, if it agreed to show a draft before publication, [the newspaper] has to do so, because it is an interview,” adding that the situation might be different if the military were demanding an apology over a straight news story.

The interview touched upon the military chief’s view on constitutional amendment, the military’s role in Parliament, the Rohingya issue, the peace process, and the policies of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling National League for Democracy.

The Press Council has invited representatives of both sides to discuss the issue at a meeting on March 1.