By SEAN GLEESON | FRONTIER
YANGON — High profile journalist Ko Swe Win was arrested by police at Yangon Airport on Sunday evening and is likely to be transported to Mandalay to face defamation charges filed earlier this year.
A colleague of the Myanmar Now chief correspondent told Frontier that Swe Win had been detained by police after arriving at the airport to board a flight to Bangkok.
Swe Win said he believed he would be transferred to Obo Prison in Mandalay in the coming hours.
His detention appears to stem from a defamation complaint filed by a supporter of the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha in March.
In a Facebook post earlier that month, Swe Win suggested that senior Ma Ba Tha member U Wirathu had committed parajika — an act warranting expulsion from the monkhood — for publicly lauding the death of legal advocate and National League for Democracy advisor U Ko Ni, who was gunned down outside Yangon Airport in January.
The complainant, U Kyaw Myo Shwe, had later petitioned the Maha Aung Myay Township police station to withdraw the charge.
A former political prisoner who spent years in jail for anti-junta activism in the 1990s, Swe Win now faces a potential three-year prison term under section 66(d), the defamation clause of the Telecommunciations Law.
Swe Win was formally honoured by the Myanmar government last year for his report into a child abuse case at a Yangon tailor shop.
His investigation led to disciplinary action against officers in the Kyauktada Township police station and the resignation of four members of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, after both bodies refused to investigate the case.
Parliament in Nay Pyi Taw is currently considering amendments to the Telecommunications Law that would prohibit third-party defamation complaints of the sort filed in Swe Win’s case.
Swe Win is the fourth journalist to be jailed in Myanmar in the last month.
On June 24, three reporters were arrested by the military after returning from an anti-drug event organised by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in northern Shan State. The trio appeared before a judge in Hsipaw Friday to face charges under the Unlawful Associations Act and face a minimum two-year sentence.