MANDALAY — Mandalay journalists gathered on Thursday to show their solidarity with a detained columnist and the chief editor of The Voice Daily, who appeared in court in Rangoon for charges under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act on the same day.
The journalists, wearing white shirts and white armbands, went to Mahamuni Pagoda, where they prayed for the freedom of the two detained men. The armbands read “Freedom of Press,” printed in both Burmese and English, with a picture of hands in handcuffs.
The journalists also went to city centers and crowded markets, sharing statements that condemned using the Telecommunications Act to file lawsuits against the media.
“After gathering signatures, we will submit an appeal to the State Counselor, the President’s Office, the commander-in-chief and Parliament to reconsider using the Telecommunications Act, as opposed to the Media Law, to punish journalists,” said Ko Lin Tun, a freelance journalist and employee of the Media Center in Mandalay.
“We would like to ask the government to amend the Telecommunications Law, which authorities are using to oppress journalists and the media,” said Ko Min Din, the chief editor of Mandalay-based Channel Mandalay News.
Journalists and supporters from Monywa, Sagaing Division also issued a similar statement on Thursday, showing their support and calling on the government to review the Telecommunications Law, which allows suspects to be arrested without bail and has been increasingly used in politically motivated defamation cases.
“This movement is not only for journalists. [Article] 66(d) threatens everyone. We will join hands with journalists in Rangoon and other cities to urge for the amendment of this law,” said Ko San Yu Kyaw, a columnist based in Mandalay.
Journalists in Rangoon are also participating in the armband campaign. They will wear the armbands for 10 days, collect signatures until the end of the month and then submit their request.
Satirist British Ko Ko Maung and U Kyaw Min Swe, the chief editor of The Voice news agency were arrested under Article 66(d) on June 2 for a satirical piece regarding the current peace process and ongoing armed conflict.