Religious Affairs Ministry: Journalist Ko Swe Win Has Not Violated the Law

By Lawi Weng 5 April 2017

RANGOON — Chief editor of Myanmar Now Ko Swe Win—who is the subject of two legal cases linked to ultranationalist Buddhist association Ma Ba Tha—has not contravened any law, according to a statement of opinion by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.

The three-page ministry letter was issued in response to a request by Ko Swe Win for a summary of its views on the lawsuits against him, filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law—in Mandalay—and Article 295 of Burma’s penal code—in Rangoon. The journalist had shared an abbot’s quote on Facebook stating that U Wirathu was no longer a member of the monkhood because he had thanked the assassins of National League for Democracy legal adviser U Ko Ni for their act.

While clarifying that the ministry is “not a judicial or prosecuting institution,” the letter stated, “Ko Swe Win did not set out with the intent to defame U Wirathu,” but had “carried out his job as a journalist” by informing the public about U Wirathu’s statement.

The ministry also noted that U Wirathu had recently been banned from delivering sermons for one year.

Ko Swe Win’s criticism, the ministry stated, was “based on facts,” and could therefore not be classified as defamation, and did not insult the Buddhist religion. Thus the ministry did not accept that there were grounds for an indictment under the penal code’s Article 295.

In response to the statement by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, Ko Swe Win’s legal adviser U Khin Maung Myint said, “the statement will help a lot in fighting the criminal charges.”

The journalist could be charged under 66(d) after a Ma Ba Tha member from Mandalay, Kyaw Myo Shwe, filed a complaint in Maha Aung Myay Township; the police accepted the case and traveled to Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township to question Ko Swe Win and investigate the charges “under the law,” according to police officer Kyaw Thu.

Khin Maung Myint said that he gave 11 papers and one video clip to the two police officers from Mandalay as evidence in the case.

According to his legal adviser, Ko Swe Win will have another meeting on April 7 in order to deal with the second charge, filed by Ko Thet Myo Oo from Rangoon’s Kyimyintaing Township. Ko Thet Myo Oo argued that Ko Swe Win had violated Article 295 of the penal code and insulted Buddhism through his social media posts concerning U Wirathu.