Court Considers Bail for Detained Journalists

By Zarni Mann 28 July 2017

Hsipaw, Shan State — Hsipaw Township Court will consider the bail request of three detained journalists and rule next week, the judge presiding over the case announced on Friday.

“The judge accepted the submission of a bail appeal,” said Daw Khin Mi Mi, lawyer of one of the accused men, Irrawaddy reporter Lawi Weng.

“Persons facing the charge can be released on bail and we believe the judge will do his best,” reported the lawyer, adding that the judge said he would rule at the next court hearing on Aug. 4.

Six men—including Lawi Weng and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reporters U Aye Naing and Ko Pyae Phyo Naing—appeared in Hsipaw Township Court on Friday for the third time on Friday after two earlier surprise court dates.

All of the journalists appeared in good physical and mental health.

The court, on Friday, heard testimony from a local army official as a witness for the prosecution.

Capt. Thet Naing Oo, who arrested the journalists in June, presented photos and video files as proof of the accused’s connection with ethnic armed group the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

He told the court that the journalists failed to request permission from local security forces at a police station, Myanmar Army base, or local administration office before travelling to cover a drug-burning ceremony held by the TNLA to mark the UN’s International Day Against Drug Abuse.

“They [the army] said we need permission to go to that area, but we are journalists and citizens of this country and we have the right to travel freely inside our own country,” Lawi Weng told reporters after the court hearing, before being sent back to Hsipaw Prison.

The six men—three journalists, two drivers and a local man—were travelling in two vehicles near Phayagyi Village between Namhsan and Lashio townships on June 26 and were arrested on suspicion of connection with the TNLA, which operates in the area.

The journalists and a local man were charged under Article 17(1) of the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act for contacting the TNLA, while the drivers received additional charges for the two unlicensed vehicles. They were placed in detention in Hsipaw Prison.

Amnesty International issued a statement on Thursday calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists.