Journal Wins Rare Court Ruling for Burmese Media
By The Associated Press 23 May 2012
RANGOON—A private news journal in Burma won a rare court victory on Wednesday and will not have to reveal the name of its reporter who wrote about corruption at government ministries.
The Voice Weekly still faces a defamation suit over the article published in March. The initial court ruling means it will be allowed to protect its reporter’s name, lawyer Win Shwe told The Associated Press.
Lawsuits involving the media are a new development in Burma and part of an easing of censorship under the reform-minded government that took office last year.
Under the previous military regime, strict media censorship determined what was fit to print and violators faced severe penalties.
Despite the new freedoms, publications still follow their old policy of writing anonymously on sensitive subjects.
In the article published in March, The Voice Weekly wrote about misappropriation and irregularities in the accounts of several ministries including information, agriculture, industry and mines from 2009-2011. The article cited a report from the auditor general’s office to the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
The Mines Ministry filed a defamation suit in response to the article and demanded that editor-in-chief Kyaw Min Swe reveal the article’s author. The defamation hearing will continue June 6.
A weekly publication The Modern faced an earlier defamation case over an article that alleged truck drivers had bribed engineers at the Construction Ministry to let them use a certain bridge even though their vehicles exceeded the weight limit. One of the engineers sued the publication, but the two sides settled after the magazine printed a correction.
Burma’s Press Scrutiny Board has ended censorship on subjects such as health, entertainment, fashion and sports but many in the media say the arrival of lawsuits is a new threat to media freedom.
Articles on general news and religion are still required to go through censors prior to publication, but the Press Scrutiny Board says it will end all forms of censorship in June.