Myan­mar po­lice de­tain jour­nal­ist ahead of his defama­tion trial

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL - — AP

Po­lice in Myan­mar have de­tained a prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist, ac­cus­ing him of at­tempt­ing to flee the coun­try shortly be­fore his trial on defama­tion charges brought by a fol­lower of a Bud­dhist monk who has stirred up anti-Mus­lim ha­tred. The de­ten­tion of Swe Win, the edi­tor of the non­profit on­line news out­let Myan­mar Now, is the lat­est in a re­cent se­ries of ac­tions against jour­nal­ists in the coun­try that rights ad­vo­cates say vi­o­late free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“Swe Win is a prin­ci­pled jour­nal­ist with a tow­er­ing rep­u­ta­tion for ex­pos­ing in­jus­tice,” Matthew Smith, head of the group For­tify Rights, said in an emailed state­ment. “This is yet another fee­ble at­tempt to crim­i­nal­ize jour­nal­ism. Jour­nal­ism is not a crime.” Swe Win was taken by po­lice yes­ter­day to the cen­tral city of Man­dalay.

His lawyer said he was de­tained Sun­day as he pre­pared to board a flight to Thai­land to make ar­range­ments for the news ser­vice’s op­er­a­tions while he is in­volved with his trial. Kyaw Thu, a Man­dalay po­lice of­fi­cer, said that Swe Win was re­leased on bail and that the court will be­gin hear­ing his case on Aug. 7, sev­eral days af­ter it had been sched­uled ear­lier. The com­plaint against him was made by a fol­lower of Wi­rathu, a Man­dalay­based Bud­dhist monk best known for his provoca­tive speeches about Myan­mar’s Mus­lim mi­nor­ity. An or­ga­ni­za­tion led by Wi­rathu, Ma Ba Tha, has been ac­cused of stir­ring up sen­ti­ment against Mus­lims, lead­ing to deadly vi­o­lence.

Swe Win crit­i­cized Wi­rathu on so­cial me­dia, ac­cus­ing him of vi­o­lat­ing the Bud­dhist code of monas­tic dis­ci­pline for his com­ments about the killing of a prom­i­nent Mus­lim lawyer who was a le­gal ad­viser to the rul­ing Na­tional League for Democ­racy. Last week, a court be­gan pro­ceed­ings against three jour­nal­ists who have been charged with vi­o­lat­ing a law that pro­vides up to three years’ im­pris­on­ment for peo­ple who as­sist groups that are deemed il­le­gal.

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