Myanmar Military Regime Sues The Irrawaddy

By The Irrawaddy 12 March 2021

Yangon — Myanmar’s military regime has sued The Irrawaddy, one of the country’s independent news media outlets, for “disregarding” the armed forces in reporting the ongoing anti-regime protests.

The lawsuit under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code is the junta’s latest attack on media freedom after nearly 10 reporters from different employers were charged. Twelve other journalists are also being detained without charges.

Naypyitaw sources said the police opened the case against The Irrawaddy as a whole rather than individual employees, making it the first news outlet to be sued by the regime since the Feb. 1 coup.

Article 505(a) outlaws any statement likely to cause military personnel to mutiny or to disregard their duties and carries up to three years in prison.

The lawsuit targets a Feb. 20 video showing the police asking for 13 million kyats (US$9,200) from relatives to release striking doctors who they detained at an anti-regime protest. The Irrawaddy published the video, featuring the civilians’ voices. Military-run Myanma Radio and Television claimed The Irrawaddy’s report was false.

Since the onset of the regime’s crackdowns on the protesters, journalists have been targeted. Media offices were raided and the publication licenses of Mizzima, the Democratic Voice of Burma, Myanmar Now, 7Day and Khit Thit Media were revoked by the regime on March 8 for their supposed anti-regime coverage.

On the ground, reporters have been vulnerable to teargas, rubber bullets or even live rounds and detentions while covering the protests. The Irrawaddy’s reporters have so far managed to avoid arrest. Many journalists across the country have been forced into hiding to avoid being detained.

The Irrawaddy’s Burmese editor U Ye Ni said the lawsuit is further proof the military is attempting to suppress the media and restrict the flow of information since the Feb. 1 coup.

“We are not surprised at the lawsuit. We expected that our turn will come sooner or later after [the military] banned five media outlets,” said U Ye Ni.

“We don’t believe justice can be done within the legal framework as there is no judicial independence under the military authorities,” he added.

The Irrawaddy was founded in 1993 by journalists from Myanmar in exile in Thailand. The publication covers the news in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. Due to its strong belief in democracy, the agency reported on human rights abuses and military oppression in Myanmar to the world under previous periods of military rule.

In 2013, the publication returned to Myanmar to report on the transition to democracy and its editors and reporters have faced arrests and lawsuits from the military for impartial news coverage.

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