NLD researcher’s defamation case not coming from military higher-ups: complainant
ONE of the latest high-profile cases of alleged defamation under the Telecommunications Law continued last week with the complainant insisting he was not acting on instructions from above in a lawsuit pitting him against a researcher for the National League for Democracy.
“There was not any instruction from the Senior General [Min Aung Hlaing]. I sued him because of the reports from my colleagues and [because] he insulted our armed forces,” said U Lin Tun, the deputy director general of the Tatmadaw’s Yangon Cantonment Area and complainant in the case.
He insisted that the military was accepting of, and welcomed, criticisms that were constructive in intent and fact-based.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein, secretary of the NLD’s Central Committee for Research and Strategy Studies, is facing trial under article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law for allegedly defaming Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing and the security forces under his control. The criticism of the commander-in-chief’s handling of last month’s violence in Rakhine State came in the form of an October 14 Facebook post.
“He [U Myo Yan Naung Thein] wrote the post and incited the public not to respect, to hate intensely and to rupture fealty toward the government, including military forces,” U Lin Tun said during the latest hearing at Kamaryut Township Court on November 25.
Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the director general of the police force and Rakhine State’s security minister were all defamed by the Facebook post, U Lin Tun contends.
The Yangon Cantonment Area official is apparently particularly sensitive to the Tatmadaw’s image: He was also the complainant in a case earlier this year against 7Day Daily that accused the newspaper of abetting “mutiny” in a story it published that quoted former general Thura U Shwe Mann. That suit was eventually dropped.
U Kyaw Hoe, the NLD researcher’s lawyer, cross-examined the complainant on November 25. U Lin Tun said he had brought his suit under the Telecommunications Law because he believed it would be “more effective” than prosecuting under other defamation statutes on the books, according to U Kyaw Hoe.
He told media at last week’s hearing that he was seeking bail – or to have the case thrown out altogether – on the grounds that the complainant had not obtained “prior sanction” by the Ministry of Communications to bring the case, as required by article 80 of the Telecommunications Law.
Speaking to reporters at the courthouse on November 25, U Myo Yan Naung Thein said he did not have confidence in prospects for a fair trial, given past precedents and “influences above the law”.
“I have found that many people in jail were imprisoned unfairly. They all should be released. One out of every two cases is unfair and their cases should be reviewed,” he said.
The defendant said since being detained, his wife’s Gmail and Facebook accounts had been hacked, adding that he feared for her safety.
Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as cases continue to land Facebook users in prison for their online conduct.
U Thant Zin Maung, Union minister for transport and communication, said last week that he had “no comment” on the law or prospects for its revision.
“We have to act according to the existing law,” he said in Nay Pyi Taw on November 23, while later adding, “Actually, that section is strange. I feel quite unsatisfied [about it] in my mind.”
U Myo Yan Naung Thein’s next hearing is scheduled for December 2.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein (in green) attends a hearing at Kamaryut Township Court on November 17.