Nay Pyi Taw reporter hit with defama­tion suit

A cap­i­tal-based reporter for News Watch jour­nal was charged un­der ar­ti­cle 66(d) this week in re­la­tion to a let­ter and so­cial me­dia posts al­legedy at­tack­ing a state me­dia jour­nal­ist.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar and Zaw Nyunt

A NAY Pyi Taw-based reporter is the lat­est to fall vic­tim to the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law’s defama­tion clause af­ter News Watch jour­nal’s U Maung Maung Tun was charged un­der ar­ti­cle 66(d) this week.

Po­lice of­fi­cer U Tin Moe Oo from the Py­in­mana Town­ship Po­lice con­firmed that a case would go to trial, re­lated to a let­ter to the ed­i­tor U Maung Maung Tun wrote and sub­se­quent so­cial me­dia posts that crit­i­cised a state me­dia reporter.

“The case was opened [un­der] ... sec­tion 66[d] of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law on Au­gust 17 at the Py­in­mana My­oma Po­lice Sta­tion. Af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the ac­cused, Ko Maung Maung Tun, was ar­rested at around 9:00pm on Novem­ber 29. It was a case [con­cern­ing al­leged defama­tion] very long ago but it has taken time to con­struct the case,” he said.

Dif­fi­cul­ties con­tact­ing both the com­plainant and de­fen­dant had de­layed a for­mal charge, said of­fi­cer U Tin Moe Oo, ex­plain­ing that it was U Maung Maung Tun’s so­cial me­dia posts that al­lowed for the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law to be wielded against him.

The de­fen­dant ap­peared be­fore the Py­in­mana Town­ship Court for an ini­tial hear­ing yes­ter­day and was re­manded into cus­tody, with his next court ap­pear­ance sched­uled for De­cem­ber 12.

The defama­tion suit cen­tres on U Maung Maung Tun’s crit­i­cism of Kye­mon reporter U Zaw Min Aung over a July 30 ar­ti­cle the lat­ter wrote about the Nay Pyi Taw City De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee’s 100-days plan for the cap­i­tal’s My­oma Mar­ket.

U Maung Maung Tun took aim at U Zaw Min Aung in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor in another lo­cal jour­nal, head­lined “Who dares to lie not only to the out­side world but also on the pages of a state-owned news­pa­per?”, and in sub­se­quent so­cial me­dia posts declar­ing, “He lied and lied, who dares lie on the pages of a news­pa­per?”, and “They bite back be­cause I wrote about My­oma Mar­ket and that stick di­rectly hit their wounds”.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear who brought the com­plaint against U Maung Maung Tun, nor what specifics of the July 30 ar­ti­cle he took is­sue with.

The story in­cluded in­ter­views with Nay Pyi Taw City De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee mem­ber U Myo Tint and U Min Lwin Soe, head of the Mar­kets Depart­ment.

Speak­ing to The Myan­mar Times on con­di­tion of anonymity, a Nay Pyi Taw City De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee mem­ber ques­tioned the le­gal­ity and pro­ce­dural pro­pri­ety of the case.

“Ar­rest­ing peo­ple when they have been com­plained against should be re-an­a­lysed [to de­ter­mine] whether it is in ac­cor­dance with the law and po­lice pro­ce­dures. It is such an ag­grieve­ment for the per­son who has been ar­rested ... This per­son loses their cit­i­zen’s rights in the mat­ter. It should not be done,” said the com­mit­tee mem­ber, who also claimed the com­plainant did not have stand­ing to sue for defama­tion.

U Maung Maung Tun de­fended his crit­i­cism as grounded in the pub­lic’s right to now.

“I have writ­ten about a cheat, writ­ing for the pub­lic to know. I did the right thing by re­veal­ing the truth about the per­son who did wrong. But the one who did right is now ac­cused. The world is ab­so­lutely up­side-down,” he said.

Ar­ti­cle 66(d) of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law has been used to sti­fle crit­i­cism by both the pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary-backed gov­ern­ment and on the watch of the civil­ian Na­tional League for Democ­racy ad­min­is­tra­tion. Crit­ics say the pro­vi­sion is vague and overly broad, and a cam­paign is un­der way to push for scrap­ping or amend­ing it.

Those found guilty of vi­o­lat­ing ar­ti­cle 66(d) face up to three years in prison.

Photo: Swan Ye Htut

U Maung Maung Tun is es­corted to a hear­ing yes­ter­day at Py­in­mana Town­ship Court in Nay Pyi Taw.

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