Myanmar Now Journalist Faces Another Lawsuit

By Kyaw Kha 21 March 2017

RANGOON — A Rangoon resident filed a lawsuit against Myanmar Now chief correspondent Ko Swe Win on Monday – the second he has faced this month – accusing the reporter of insulting Buddhism.

Kyimyindaing Township resident Ko Thet Myo Oo, who described himself as an “active nationalist” and Buddhist in The Standard Time Daily, asked Kyauktada Township court to charge Ko Swe Win under a suitable provision of Burma’s Penal Code.

Ko Thet Myo Oo accused Ko Swe Win of insulting Buddhism during a press conference at the Myanmar Now office on March 8, according to Ko Swe Win’s legal advisor U Khin Maung Myint.

The reporter held the conference to address another charge brought against him under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law on March 7 by Mandalay resident U Kyaw Myo Shwe, a follower of ultranationalist monk U Wirathu, who claimed the chief correspondent insulted the monk in a Facebook post.

From the press conference, local media quoted Ko Swe Win as saying: “They say [my post] is defamatory, but does [U Wirathu] have the dignity to be defamed? He is endlessly cursing across the country. Does this person have dignity?”

On his Facebook, Ko Swe Win shared a Myanmar Now news story that stated that U Wirathu was no longer in the monkhood as he had thanked the assassins who killed National League for Democracy legal advisor U Ko Ni.

The Myanmar Now story quoted a senior abbot who said thanking and encouraging murder was an unforgivable offense in the monastic practice.

According to local media, Ko Thet Myo Oo said, “I sued him because he deliberately said those things about Ma Ba Tha [the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion] to damage Buddhists’ respect for those senior monks and to lead followers of other religions to look down [on Buddhism].”

Ko Thet Myo Oo attempted to file a complaint at Kyauktada Township police station on March 19, but police told him to file the lawsuit at a court.

Kyauktada Township court accepted the complaint, assigning the police station to verify the accusations and report back on April 3.

“The judge will either dismiss the case or issue an arrest warrant for Ko Swe Win depending on the police report,” explained U Khin Maung Myint. “If he is charged, the case doesn’t allow Ko Swe Win to apply for bail so he will have to face trial in custody.”

The legal advisor added that he reviewed Ko Swe Win’s words at the press conference and found nothing that insulted Buddhism. He has submitted a report to the Myanmar Press Council about his findings, he said.

Ko Swe Win has hired lawyer U Kyi Myint to prepare for the possible trial.

The latest lawsuit follows an incident on the evening of March 14 in which three men in Rangoon’s Sanchaung Township threatened Ko Swe Win, who then opened a case against the assailants in Sanchaung court.