Bail decision for Eleven defamation defendants postponed
LAWYERS for Eleven Media Group CEO U Than Htut Aung and chief editor U Wai Phyo lobbied unsuccessfully last week for a swift decision on their bail petitions, with the judge unmoved by their appeals to speed the ruling along in light of one of the defendants’ ailing health. Judge Daw Kay Thi Hlaing announced on November 25 that a ruling on whether to grant the two men’s request will be made on November 30.
She was speaking at Tarmwe Township Court during the opening day of the two men’s trial on defamation charges, which was brought by the Yangon Region government.
In his appeal to the presiding magistrate, lawyer U Kyaw Lin said U Than Htut Aung had suffered a heart attack in Insein Prison on November 23, with no medical specialist available to provide treatment at the notorious lock-up.
Given the CEO’s health condition, the lawyers argued for an immediate decision on their bail petition.
Speaking at the hearing, U Than Htut Aung asked who would be held responsible in the event that his health deteriorates further.
“If I die in the prison, who will take responsibility for that, the government or the judiciary?” he said.
The defendants’ counsel told Daw Kay Thi Hlaing that there were plenty of precedents for granting bail in defamation cases, such as that of Maung Maung Nyan Win, who like the Eleven duo is facing a charge under article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law and was bailed last week in Pyay township.
The Yangon Region government has filed its suit against Eleven Media Group over an article published earlier this month under U Than Htut Aung’s by-line.
In it, the CEO appeared to suggest a link between a timepiece worn by Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein – “seen wearing a US$100,000 Patek Philippe watch”, the author wrote – and one of the tender winners for a Yangon expansion project.
“The newly elected NLD officials’ rosy relations with corrupt officials from the previous bureaucracy are given concerns of the Myanmar people … The individual who allegedly gave this ‘gift’ to the elected minister was recently released from jail after serving time for his involvement in a drug case,” the article continued. “After the NLD came to power, this individual’s project to build a new city received approval.”
The story was published in English by the Asia News Network and carried on the website of the Singapore-based Straits Times newspaper on November 5. It was subsequently translated into Myanmar language and published in the Daily Eleven newspaper.