By MRATT KYAW THU | AFP
YANGON — The Bahan Township court has denied bail for the two journalists accused of defaming the military, following a Thursday court hearing picketed by journalists protesting the charge.
U Kyaw Min Swe and ‘British’ Ko Ko Maung, the chief editor and staff satirist for The Voice newspaper, were arrested last week for publishing a column satirising ‘Pyidaungsu Thitsar’ (Faithful to the Union), a recent film lauding the Myanmar Army’s victories over ethnic armed groups.
U Myo Thein, a lawyer for the defendants, said presiding judge Daw Thara Phi Aung had rejected the pair’s bail application after their counsel were unable to provide a requested medical report.
“The judge asked for the medical record which was not included in our filing,” he told Frontier. “The medical record was being prepared, it just did not get to the court in time. It is just an excuse to deny bail.”
U Khin Maung Myint, a legal advisor to The Voice, said that Myanmar’s Code of Criminal Procedure made it clear that the pair were eligible for bail and the court’s decision did not depend on the defence team’s filings.
He added that Myanmar’s Media Law required a round of adjudication by the News Media Council to be finished before complainants could launch a prosecution. Negotiations between The Voice and military representatives were still ongoing when the journalists were arrested.
“I would like to say that the prosecutors and the court are proceeding unlawfully by deviating from these laws,” Khin Maung Myint said.
Outside the court and in the nearby offices of The Voice on Thursday, journalists from several media outlets gathered to show their support for the defendants.
In the wake of the pair’s prosecution, media workers in Myanmar this week launched a campaign for the repeal of Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which criminalises “defamatory” content broadcast over the internet.