Voice editor, writer arrested on defamation charges

By HTUN KHAING | FRONTIER

YANGON — The Bahan Township Court has held a rare Saturday morning session to extend the detention of an editor and writer for The Voice arrested for defamation.

The judge approved a request from the police to issue a warrant for the arrest of chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe and columnist Ko Ko Maung, who were detained on June 2 under section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law following a complaint from the military.

The defence had no representation at the hearing, however. Their legal adviser, U Khin Maung Myint, said later that he had not been informed it would go ahead, and planned to submit a complaint to the authorities.

“Court never sits on holidays and weekends, except in very special cases. On Monday I will send a complaint letter to the district court about Bahan township judge’s decision” he told Frontier on June 4.

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The judge rejected a request from Kyaw Min Swe to release the pair, instead deciding they could be held until the next hearing on June 8.

The hearing went ahead after Khin Maung Myint warned police that they would be violating the law if they held the pair for more than 24 hours without a warrant.

They were arrested at 2pm on June 1. They were taken to the police station at 3pm for questioning and a computer allegedly used to post the article online was confiscated as evidence.

“If they are not released tomorrow, we will demand their release. It is a citizen’s right,” Khin Maung Myint told Frontier on June 2.

Section 21(b) of the constitution states, “No citizen shall be placed in custody for more than 24 hours without the permission of a Court.”

However, it is a rule that is routinely flouted with impunity by the police force, which is controlled by the military.

The arrest of the pair came after many weeks of unsuccessful mediation by the News Media Council between the journalists and the Tatmadaw.

The article, published in late March, took aim at a propaganda film called “Pyidaungsu Thit Sar” (Faithful to the Union) lauding the army’s victories over ethnic armed groups.

The article took aim at senior leaders for sitting around holding peace talks and drinking wine while low-rank soldiers are being killed.

U Myint Kyaw from the Myanmar Press Council, a media arbitration panel, told AFP that the military viewed the article as creating “divisions” between the high and low ranking soldiers.

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