Me­dia net­work slams ar­rest of Myan­mar me­dia ex­ecs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An Asian news net­work yes­ter­day called for the re­lease of two Myan­mar me­dia ex­ec­u­tives jailed for al­leged defama­tion, the lat­est case to high­light lim­its on free speech un­der the coun­try’s new demo­cratic gov­ern­ment. The CEO of Eleven Me­dia Group and a chief editor of a news­pa­per it pub­lishes were de­tained by po­lice Fri­day over a col­umn that ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of hav­ing “rosy re­la­tions” with cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

The defama­tion law­suit was brought by a min­is­ter from Aung San Suu Kyi’s prodemoc­racy party, which came to power ear­lier this year af­ter sweep­ing his­toric elec­tions that ended five decades of mil­i­tary rule.

The col­umn also ac­cused the min­is­ter of re­ceiv­ing a $100,000 watch from a busi­ness­man who later won plum con­tracts. Al­though nei­ther were di­rectly named in the piece both later called press con­fer­ences to deny the al­le­ga­tions.

On Satur­day ed­i­tors from the Asian News Net­work-a con­sor­tium of English-lan­guage out­lets across the re­gion, in­clud­ing Eleven Me­dia group-ex­pressed “shock and dis­may” over the ar­rests of CEO Than Htut Aung and editor Wai Phyo. The in­ci­dent threat­ens to “im­pede the demo­cratic pro­cesses that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and her party had fought long and hard for,” the net­work said, call­ing for the two men’s im­me­di­ate re­lease.

Po­lice said they are pre­par­ing to charge the jour­nal­ists with vi­o­lat­ing a defama­tion clause un­der Myan­mar’s broadly worded telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions law-leg­is­la­tion that was fre­quently used by the for­mer quasimil­i­tary gov­ern­ment to pun­ish crit­ics.

De­spite hopes democ­racy ac­tivist Suu Kyi would usher in a new era of free ex­pres­sion, sev­eral peo­ple have been pros­e­cuted for defama­tion since her party took over in late March.

In Septem­ber a man was handed a nine month jail sen­tence for call­ing Pres­i­dent Htin Kyaw-Suu Kyi’s ally-”crazy” in a Face­book post. A re­searcher for the rul­ing National League for Democ­racy (NLD) was also charged un­der the law for crit­i­ciz­ing the still-pow­er­ful army in a Face­book post.

“While the new gov­ern­ment has made some at­tempts to amend long-stand­ing re­pres­sive laws that tar­get ac­tivists and me­dia work­ers, this case shows that those at­tempts do not go far enough,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s Re­gional Di­rec­tor for South­east Asia and the Pa­cific. — AFP

YAN­GON: A Myan­mar Daily Eleven news­pa­per (right) dis­played on a news stand in Yan­gon yes­ter­day shows a front page pic­ture of Than Htut Aung, CEO of the Eleven Me­dia Group, rais­ing his hand­cuffed hands while be­ing put in a po­lice ve­hi­cle at a po­lice sta­tion. — AFP

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