Pegu Police Sue Myanmar Herald Reporter

By Nobel Zaw 8 December 2014

RANGOON — A Pegu-based reporter with The Myanmar Herald said on Monday that he is being sued under the Media Law by a local police commander for a report that allegedly negatively affected the officer’s reputation.

Than Myat Soe, who reports for the paper from Pegu town, said that Pegu Division’s Letpandan Township Police Col. Bhone Myint had filed a case against him after he wrote an opinion article on Nov. 15 that included unconfirmed claims that local police force and Special Branch were taking bribes from illegal gambling rings.

“On Nov. 17, I received a call from police officers and was asked about the article, and on Nov. 28 I received a letter from Letpandan Township Court to come because I am being sued by police Col. Bhone Myint,” he told The Irrawaddy.

It is the second legal case being brought against the newspaper under the Media Law, which was promulgated earlier this year, after the Information Ministry in September decided to press charges against 11 members of the organization for negatively affecting the reputation of President Thein Sein.

The Myanmar Herald drew the ire of the ministry after it published an opinion interview with the opposition National League for Democracy’s lead researcher Myo Yan Naung Thein on Aug. 9, criticizing Thein Sein for waffling in his statements about whether he would seek re-election in 2015.

In both cases, charges have been filed under the law’s Article 9 and Article 25(b), which sets a fine ranging from about US$300 to $1,000 for a reporter found guilty of breaching a number of media rules. In the cases, reporters and editors have been accused of producing an article that “deliberately affects the reputation of a specific person or an organization.”

Thant Myat Soe and his lawyer Tin Hlaing said they attended the first hearing on Dec. 5, adding that the plaintiff had not been present.

Tin Hlaing said the judge had ordered two guarantors to promise to pay a surety bond of about $1,000 each in case the defendant does not appear in court. He added that the next hearing was scheduled for Dec. 17.