Myanmar Now Journalist Sued Under Telecommunications Law

By Zarni Mann 8 March 2017

MANDALAY — A Mandalay resident filed a lawsuit against Myanmar Now chief correspondent Ko Swe Win on Tuesday, accusing the reporter of insulting nationalist monk U Wirathu.

U Kyaw Myo Shwe, a follower of U Wirathu, opened a case under Burma’s Telecommunications Law at a police station in Mandalay’s Maha Aungmyay Township.

“We’ve accepted the case and registered it; however, legal advisors are still discussing whether to bring it to court,” said an officer from the police station, adding that Ko Swe Win has not yet been detained.

U Kyaw Myo Shwe told The Irrawaddy that Ko Swe Win wrote on his Facebook that U Wirathu committed a cardinal sin and his monkhood was over, and that insulting U Wirathu was something that he and other followers would not stand for.

“We asked him to apologize within a week but he didn’t so we filed the suit,” he said, adding that he would withdraw the action if Ko Swe Win apologized.

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 that thanking and encouraging murder was an unforgivable offense in the monastic practice.

“I only wrote what Sayardaw U Seinda said. I have nothing to do with the accusation and will face trial according to the law,” said Ko Swe Win.

“I have to question the rule of law in a country where people who support an assassination and spread hate speech over the internet go unpunished while people like me are being sued,” he added.

U Wirathu is a hardline nationalist monk who is known for vitriolic hate speech against the country’s Muslim minority.

He demanded an apology from Ko Swe Win but the journalist said at a press conference in Rangoon on Wednesday that he saw no reason to apologize to someone who had encouraged killing.

“He hasn’t spread hate speech just once. Everyone knows he fans tensions across the country,” Ko Swe Win said.