YANGON – The Protecting Committee for Myanmar Journalists’ (PCMJ) complaint against Cpl Soe Myint Aung of the Yangon military command was rejected by deputy police captain Aye Min Thein of Bahan Township police station on Thursday.
At the fifth court hearing of The Voice Daily’s chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe, plain-clothed soldier Cpl Soe Myint Aung photographed journalists’ individual faces instead of taking wider shots while they were interviewing legal adviser U Khin Maung Myint outside of the court. U Kyaw Min Swe is being sued by Lt-Col Lin Tun of the Yangon military headquarters under the notorious Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, enacted during ex-president U Thein Sein’s tenure.
The PCMJ reasoned that Soe Myint Aung had violated the Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens Law that was enacted by President U Htin Kyaw earlier this year in order to restrict state surveillance. Such conduct was once a tactic used to suppress activists.
The Bahan police station summoned complainant Ye Lin Htoo and other six journalists on Thursday. A policeman gave a response letter to the plaintiff which was signed by police captain Aye Min Thein.
The letter stated that the soldier in question did not “breach any prohibitions of section (4)” of the recently enacted law. The law has six chapters and 13 sections in total.
Capt Aye Min Thein recommended the plaintiff Ye Lin Htoo and other PCMJ members file a case at the Bahan Township courthouse directly if the journalists felt that the conduct of Cpl Soe Myint Aung had harmed their dignity.
Although police summoned seven journalists to the station on Thursday morning, those who attended the meeting said Capt Aye Min Thein did not show up to speak with them, despite a police statement declaring that all seven reporters had met with him.
Ma Thuzar of 7 Day TV told The Irrawaddy that PCMJ members are now in talks with lawyers since the police have failed to bring the case to court, and allege that they “prejudged” the reporters as complainants.
She said she had “expected the rejection.”
Tha Lun Zaung Htet, a committee member of PCMJ and a presenter on the Democratic Voice of Burma, said, “the police have no right to override the case. It’s gone too far.”
Tha Lun Zaung Htet said that the PCMJ committee had decided to continue the case directly against both Cpl Soe Myint Aung and Capt Aye Min Thein for interfering in what they say should be the role of the judiciary.
“We are now receiving consultations from lawyers to sue the police official for failing his duty and prejudging. Guilty or not must be decided by a judge, not by the police,” he said.
Former chairman of the Myanmar Lawyer Network U Kyee Myint corroborated the statement from journalists that the police did not have a right to object to the lawsuit and were required to open the case for the plaintiff. They should have taken legal advice from the township law officers, he added, explaining that under the current circumstances, the plaintiffs could take their complaint “to a higher level.”