YANGON—The Home Affairs Ministry’s Special Branch (SB) has opened a lawsuit against U Aung Min Oo, chief editor of Sittwe-based Development Media Group (DMG), under Article 17(2) of the Unlawful Association Act.
Article 17(2) stipulates that anyone who promotes or assists an unlawful association shall be punished by five years’ imprisonment. DMG is the most popular publication among Arakanese readers, as it provides timely information about the ongoing armed skirmishes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), as well as about rights abuses in northern Rakhine.
As DMG’s editor is currently not in Sittwe, Rakhine State’s capital, No. 1 Sittwe police station summoned two reporters, Ko Nay Win San and Ko Thet Naing, for questioning on Sunday and Monday. U Aung Min Oo confirmed to The Irrawaddy via messenger that he has been sued by SB, but it remains unclear whether the lawsuit is related to DMG’s coverage of the armed conflict in Rakhine.
No. 1 Sittwe Police Station chief Captain Aung Mya Oo confirmed the questioning and lawsuit to The Irrawaddy on Sunday.
“We are questioning them because SB has filed a case against the editor-in-chief U Aung Min Oo under 17 (2),” said the captain. But he refused to disclose the reason for the lawsuit because it’s now in the questioning process.
Chief reporter Ko Nay Win San recalled that police inquired about the role of his editor, the name of the publisher, and the news organization’s structure. The police did not provide the name of the plaintiff or the reason for the prosecution. Ko Nay Win San said he was aware of a case named “Aung Min Oo and responsible persons” of the publication in the police files.
According to him, the police offered only a brief explanation for the summons, saying it was related to DMG’s news articles.
Ko Nay Win San was asked about the purpose of his feature “Moonless Night in Mrauk-U” published in early 2019 to mark the first anniversary of a deadly crackdown by police in Mrauk-U in January 2018 that killed seven protesters and wounded a dozen.
“I explained to them that the purpose of my story was to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated,” said Ko Nay Win San.
Another reporter, Ko Thet Naing, was also asked about DMG’s reporting on a shooting incident by a military unit in Rathedaung Township’s Tha Mee Hla village in January.
Monday’s questioning lasted for about one hour, he said.
In a statement issued to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged reporters to cover the news in line with journalistic ethics. In light of her comment, the DMG editor said, “Then what about indictments against journalists who cover [the issues] ethically?”
DMG is the third organization sued by the military and the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry so far this year. The military recently sued The Irrawaddy online publication and Radio Free Asia (RFA) for defamation over their coverage of the armed clashes between Myanmar military troops and the AA group in northern Rakhine.
The Irrawaddy reporter Min Aung Khine contributed to this story from Sittwe.