Statement on the online defamation case against the editor-in-chief of the Voice daily newspaper and its columnist
17 May 2017
Kyaw Min Swe, the Editor-in-Chief of the Voice daily Newspaper and its columnist, British Ko Ko Maung, are being sued by the military under section 66-D of the Telecommunications Law for publishing an article named “An Oath of the Union of Bullets” in the daily on 26 April 2017.
The newspaper published an explanation letter on 14 May 2017 in response to a complaint made to the News Media Council by the military regarding the article. The explanation failed to meet the military’s expectations and they took the case to the court, filing charges on 17 May.
The action of filing a lawsuit against not only the person responsible for the media outlet but also the author is seen as an attempt to curtail the individuals’ right to free expression. Our Coalition group believes that section 66-D of the Telecommunications Law is a restrictive tool invented solely to limit free expression in Myanmar and should be abolished immediately. Our comments on the law have already been sent to the parliament and the government.
However, the News Media Council has not finished negotiation between the two actors. Amid the ongoing discussion about the case in the Council, the decision of the military to file a lawsuit with the court has raised a question of the role of the News Media Council – the institution legally formed in accordance with the News Media Law. The military’s actions are seen as undermining the role of the Council.
We believe that public bodies should be more tolerant of criticism and should respect people’s right to free expression as an essential element of democracy, especially during the transition period. The military and the media should seek mutual trust and reconciliation while national reconciliation within the military, ethnic armed forces and the Government has been prioritized.
We, the coalition group, see that the prosecution of the editor-in-chief and columnist of the Voice daily newspaper is an attempt to curtail freedom of expression. We absolutely condemn it and urge the military to withdraw the prosecution.