Rangoon Judge Throws Out Defamation Case Against Journalist

By Moe Myint 21 April 2017

RANGOON – Kyauktada Township judge U Than Naing Htwe rejected the defamation charge against Myanmar Now’s chief editor Ko Swe Win on Friday, pointing out that the lawsuit had not been directly filed by the aggrieved party, according to legal adviser U Khin Maung Myint.

Kyimyindaing Township resident and follower of Ma Ba Tha—a Burmese acronym for the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion—Ko Thet Myo Oo filed the case against Ko Swe Win in court in March, alleging that the journalist had defamed leading Ma Ba Tha monk U Wirathu.

Editor Ko Swe Win had shared comments on social media stating that U Wirathu’s act of “thanking” National League for Democracy legal adviser U Ko Ni’s assassin—after the lawyer was gunned down on Jan. 29 outside Rangoon’s airport—was unpardonable conduct in the monastic practice.

The Ma Ba Tha follower also accused Ko Swe Win of insulting Buddhism.

Ko Swe Win’s legal adviser, U Khin Maung Myint, recalled the judge’s explanation to The Irrawaddy on Friday, emphasizing that the prosecution had to be carried out by U Wirathu himself in order to be valid. The judge also said that Ko Swe Win had not harmed the religion itself with his comments.

“The reason why the judge objected to the lawsuit was that if the monk Wirathu felt that he was insulted [by Ko Swe Win], then he must be the one to file the case,” said U Khin Maung Myint.

Although the case in Rangoon chapter has now been officially dropped, Ko Swe Win continues to face charges of violating Burma’s telecommunications law in Mandalay Division. The case there was also filed by a Ma Ba Tha follower, U Kyaw Myo Shwe.

U Khin Maung Myint admitted that the lawsuit in Mandalay could extend until late May. The police procedure has been ongoing for weeks—in order for it to proceed to court, comment will be required from the Maha Aungmyay Township law officer and the communications ministry.