Regional Govt Says Weekly Journal Violated Media Ethics With Satirical Piece

By Zue Zue 13 March 2018

YANGON — The Tanintharyi regional government has sued the Tanintharyi Journal, a weekly journal published in the region, for violating media ethics, said deputy director of the regional government office U Aye Lu, who filed the complaint.

The complaint was filed in December over a satirical piece deemed to satirize the regional chief minister Daw Lei Lei Maw and her family.

The article headlined “Electioneering Smile,” which appeared under the byline “Mu Say Ooh” in the journal’s Nov. 20 issue, referred to an incumbent female administrator who planned to contest the election for ward and village administrators.

It mocked orders made by the woman in her capacity as a local administrator, as well as her promises and efforts to get re-elected, while Daw Lei Lei Maw had made similar remarks and gave similar instructions.

“We sued the journal because it didn’t follow media ethics. And we presented evidence at the court,” U Aye Lu told The Irrawaddy after the cross-examination on Monday.

U Aye Lu filed a complaint with the Dawei Township Court on Nov. 23, saying that the satirical piece had created a negative impact on the image of the chief minister as well as the regional government.

On Dec. 21, the court ruled that the journal be sued under Article 25 (b) of the Media Law, which carries a minimum fine of 300,000 kyats to a maximum 1,000,000 kyats for news stories that deliberately affect the reputation of a specific person or an organization, if not concerned with public interests and human rights.

The claim that the satirical piece affected the reputation of the regional government, regional chief minister and her family is just an accusation, said lawyer U Aung Thein, one of the patrons of the Myanmar Lawyers Network and the defense lawyer for the executive editor of the Tanintharyi Journal.

“Satire is about making people laugh. So, I asked at the trial why they [the regional government] were so serious and if the lawsuit implied suppression of the media,” he said.

“We’ll wait for the court’s verdict according to the Media Law,” said deputy director U Aye Lu.

The next trial, the tenth since December, is set to take place on March 22 and witnesses will be questioned.

In another case about published satirical pieces, the Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) sued The Voice Daily chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe and satirist Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing (known by his pen name, “British Ko Ko Maung”) for a satirical piece about clashes between the Tatmadaw and armed ethnic groups in June 2017. The Myanmar Army later dropped the charges three months into a trial during which the pair were detained by authorities.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.