Local Weekly Newspaper Charged for Satirical Article

By Zue Zue 1 October 2018

YANGON—The Dawei Township Court charged the regional weekly Tanintharyi Journal on Monday under the Media Law for a satirical article published last year.

Daw Aye Mon Thu, the advocate representing the defendant told The Irrawaddy that the judge read out the decision, “As the [satirical] piece is believed to be aiming to undermine the dignity of the Tenasserim Regional government and thus it is charged and we have to give an explanation.”

The next trial will take place on Oct. 15 and the plaintiff’s witnesses will testify again.

The journal is charged under Article 25 (b) of the Media Law.

If found guilty, the charge carries a minimum fine of 300,000 kyats to a maximum 1,000,000 kyat for news stories that deliberately affect the reputation of a specific person or an organization, if not concerned with public interests and human rights.

The complaint was filed in December over a satirical pieceElectioneering Smile,” which appeared under the byline “Mu Say Ooh” in the journal’s Nov. 20 issue. The headline referred to an incumbent female administrator who planned to contest the election for ward and village administrators.

Following publication of the article, the regional government office deputy director filed the complaint in November last year, saying it deemed to satirize the regional chief minister Daw Lei Lei Maw and thus damaging the government’s dignity.

U Myo Aung, editor-in-charge said the respective administrations and many other pillars do not thoroughly understand the nature of satirical literature, media operations or media ethics.

He added, there is a lack of mutual understanding between sectors and that has attributed to the filing of the complaint and the court case.

Although he does not want to comment on whether the court’s decision is just or unjust, he said, he is concerned that the acceptance of the charge affects media freedom as well as intimidating the media.

“We believe this case does not even warrant getting sued, therefore, we will do our best to defend our [actions] within our legal rights,” said U Myo Aung.

The Tanintharyi Journal appealed to the Tenasserim Regional High Court to dismiss the case on June 21, but their appeal was rejected on July 31.

The journal also sought the appeal at Naypyitaw’s Supreme Court on Aug. 14 and is awaiting the decision of the court on whether they would accept the appeal or not.