NLD Spokesperson U Win Htein Verbally Abuses Reporter

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 24 August 2016

RANGOON — For the second time this year, National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesperson U Win Htein lashed out at a reporter, who was enquiring about an anticipated cabinet reshuffle, repeatedly calling him sauk yū [“deranged”].

On Wednesday, the Ludu Pone Yeik [People’s Image] weekly news journal featured the exchange between U Win Htein and one of their reporters, and the use of the offensive term, on its front page.

“What am I supposed to say?” U Win Htein responded to the reporter’s questions over the phone. “Sauk yū, sauk yū, you are sauk yū to ask me that.”

When the reporter pressed on, citing recent speculation over a cabinet reshuffle, U Win Htein repeated the offensive term. He used it six times in total during the exchange, according to the journal’s coverage.

Sai Wunna, the reporter who had attempted to interview U Win Htein, told The Irrawaddy that the exchange took place over the phone on Monday evening. He had made a voice recording to prove it.
“He sometime talks to the media about the government, that’s why I asked him,” he said, stating that the extract quoted in the journal was verbatim and unedited.

News of Win Htein’s verbal abuse spread on social media, attracting criticism of the NLD’s treatment of, and degree of openness to, the independent media.

Sein Win, director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute, said that, as the ruling party’s senior spokesperson, U Win Htein should not respond so harshly to the media.

“He has the right to say that he doesn’t want to answer, or that it is not his responsibility to do so, but this could seriously tarnish the party’s image,” he said.

“Politicians and journalists are not enemies; it’s important that they have smooth relations with one another,” he said.

In early January, before the formal handover of power to the NLD government, U Win Htein chastised a Radio Free Asia reporter.

At the end of an interview focused on the NLD’s potential presidential candidate—which the party was reluctant to reveal—the reporter thanked the senior NLD officer. U Win Htein retorted, “Don’t thank me. Think seriously before you ask me questions.”

U Ye Htut, a former information minister and spokesperson to Burma’s previous president U Thein Sein, told The Irrawaddy that the NLD was in danger of taking its widespread support in the private media for granted.

“The NLD may think that the media will always support them, and therefore disregard them. If they have such a view […] they will have trouble in the long run,” he said.

He said that the NLD should learn from public relations mistakes made by the previous military-backed government—which, despite support in state media, did not enjoy the endorsement of Burma’s burgeoning private media.

He cited the need for “mutual respect” in the government’s relations with the media, based on “ethics”: they need to “understand the nature of journalists’ work” and “show no anger during interviews.”