By OLIVER SLOW | FRONTIER
YANGON — Eleven Media Group has issued an official apology for publishing an article that led to the arrest of its chief executive officer and chief editor for allegedly defaming a senior government minister.
The original article, which was published on November 5 on the Eleven website and shared across the Asia News Network, of which EMG is a member, claimed that “a newly elected minister” had been seen wearing a US$100,000 Patek Philippe watch given to him by a businessman in exchange for favourable business deals.
The article, which also criticised the policies of the National League for Democracy government, remains online.
Although it did not mention him directly, it was interpreted as a criticism of Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein.
Dr Than Htut Aung and U Wai Phyo, EMG’s CEO and chief editor, respectively, were transferred to Insein prison on November 11 and are facing a potential three-year prison term under section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law for defamation using a telecommunications network.
“It is … regrettable that some points mentioned in the editorial were wrong and groundless accusations regarding the Yangon Region Chief Minister and the Yangon Region Government,” said the December 27 apology.
“The CEO and those responsible from Eleven Media Group would like to express their sincere apologies to the Yangon Chief Minister and government for damage caused by the article written based on accurate and groundless information.”
It was published under the title “Sincere Apologies” and signed by Eleven Media Group and Than Htut Aung.
Since their arrest, the pair have been remanded in Insein Prison and had two bail applications denied, despite Than Htut Aung claiming that he had suffered a heart attack inside Insein prison.
Section 66(d) has been widely criticised by activists, who are lobbying the government and parliament to amend the clause.
Since the law was enacted in 2013, 66(d) has been used to arrest and charge at least 45 people, nearly all in relation to allegedly defamatory Facebook posts. The majority of the cases have been filed under the NLD government.