The criminal defamation charge filed against Myanmar Now editor Swe Win will be dropped if he agrees to apologize to nationalist monk U Wirathu, the prosecutor in the case told the court today.
But Swe Win, who was charged under section 66(D) of the Telecommunications Law, said he would not apologize for allegedly sharing a post on Facebook that was critical of U Wirathu for supporting Kyi Win, the alleged murderer of prominent Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni.
Talking to reporters outside the court, Swe Win showed no sign of backing down in the legal fight, urging authorities to take action against U Wirathu, whom he said threatened the rule of law as a whole, and specific individuals with threats such as telling people to ‘Enjoy your last meal.’
Today was the 18th time Swe Win has appeared in the Mandalay court in connection with the case. The initial charges were filed by state prosecutor Kyaw Myo Shwe following a complaint by a supporter of U Wirathu.
The court today accepted paper records and other evidence submitted by Kyaw Myo Shwe despite the objections of Swe Win’s legal representatives. The evidence included a CD that U Khin Maung Myint, legal counsel for the defence, said contained a distorted record of events.
“We rejected it because it was not the original recording. The court should not accept it as evidence,” U Khin Maung Myint said.
Among the evidence was also about 100 pages of records that had already been rejected by the Kyautathar court in Rangoon when Swe Win was charged previously with insulting the national religion.
However, today the prosecutor resubmitted those papers in Mandalay along with the CD, which contains a recording of an interview Swe Win gave at a press conference at his office in Rangoon. The prosecutor made the recording from an RFA Media broadcast but then edited out certain parts, which distorted the context of Swe Win’s criticism of U Wirathu, to strengthen his case against the journalist.
This CD was not submitted to the court when the charges were initially laid, prompting Swe Win’s legal counsel to condemn the court decision to accept it as unfair.
The government banned U Wirathu from delivering sermons for a year on the grounds that his speeches violated Buddhist ethics and stirred up antipathy toward Muslims. But, he has continued to use social media and Facebook to spread his hate speech. His Facebook account has been blocked several times and he now cannot use this channel. Nevertheless, he continues to use his supporters’ Facebook accounts, and continues to spread his anti-Muslim message.
Swe Win’s next court date has been set for Feb. 26, prompting U Khin Maung Myint to say he was not happy with the court decision and that he would go to the district court in Mandalay to “fight for justice”.
“It was not appropriate for the court to make a decision like that. We were not happy about it and will appeal to the district court,” U Khin Maung Myint said.