Bail denied for Eleven Media defendants
THE Tarmwe Township Court has rejected a bail application from the CEO and editor-in-chief of Eleven Media Group, who are facing defamation charges brought by the Yangon Region government.
Lawyers for CEO U Than Htut Aung and chief editor U Wai Phyo cited health issues in support of their November 25 application for bail but were denied by judge Daw Kay Thi Hlaing, who said that not enough evidence in support of the pair’s claims had been submitted.
The judge found that medical records submitted by the defendants from private hospitals did not satisfy the burden of proof regarding the assertions of health problems and that documentation from publicly run hospitals were necessary.
The defendants’ lawyers were also unable to provide a letter from the prison hospital where U Than Htut Aung is being held verifying his previous statements in court that he had suffered a heart attack while behind bars on November 23.
Counsel for the defence U Kyee Myint said he would continue to push for bail for his clients throughout the trial and that he would appeal to higher courts if necessary.
The duo is facing charges under article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law over an article that implied corrupt dealings involving Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein. The article, which appeared under U Than Htut Aung’s by-line, appeared to suggest a link between a timepiece worn by 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.
Earlier this month, Eleven Media Group asked for the Myanmar Press Council’s assistance in resolving the case with the government.
So far, the official press oversight body has remained tight-lipped about the ongoing negotiations.
“We want to foster a warm relationship between the government and the media,” said U Aung Hla Tun, vice chair of the Myanmar Press Council.
Prosecution witnesses will begin to give evidence in the case on December 9. So far, no members of the regional government have made an appearance at the Eleven Media Group trial.
If found guilty, the two defendants could face up to three years in prison under the often-criticised section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law.
Eleven Media Group CEO U Than Htut Aung appears for a hearing in his defamation trial at Tarmwe Township Court yesterday.