YANGON — The Voice Daily’s chief editor and columnist have been charged under Article 25(b) of the Media Law for publishing a satirical article questioning the country’s ongoing peace process.
The pair had previously been charged under controversial Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law over the same story after Lt-Col Lin Tun of the Myanmar Army filed a suit against them at the Bahan Township police station on May 17.
The Burmese language publication’s chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe and paper’s regular satire columnist Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing, also known by his pen name British Ko Ko Maung, were arrested on June 2. The columnist was acquitted of violating 66(d) on a June 16 court hearing and released, but the chief editor has remained in detention and continues to face charges under Article 66(d).
Columnist Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing was granted 2 million kyats bail under the Media Law charges, but chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe did not appeal for bail during Friday’s court hearing. He had been refused bail at least four times since his arrest in June.
Legal adviser U Khin Maung Myint said as the same plaintiff had opened the second suit in the Bahan Township court, the 66(d) case must therefore be closed.
He said he would propose to the regional parliament that they drop the charges against the chief editor under Article 66(d).
“It is the first time that journalists are being sued under the Media Law. We can say the Media Law has come into practice,” he added.
The Media Law was enacted in 2014 under ex-president U Thein Sein’s government. Despite the law’s suggestion that complaints and disputes over publications or broadcasts be settled or negotiated outside of the courts with the Myanmar Press council, very few cases have been resolved in this manner.
Article 25(b) of the Media Law prescribes fines ranging from 300,000 to 1 million kyats for violations of the statute. These can be applied if a journalist’s writing style deliberately affects the reputation of a specific person or an organization, if a news outlet publishes others’ intellectual property without permission, or if photos or voices are modified in “improper” ways.
Additional reporting by Tun Tun.