Burmese military must end its judicial harassment of media

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Burmese military to withdraw a defamation suit against The Voice Daily newspaper over a satirical article and urges the authorities to amend the 2014 Telecommunications Law, under which the lawsuit was brought.

Filed on 17 May, the suit accuses The Voice Daily’s editor, Kyaw Min Swe, and a columnist who writes under the pen-name of British Ko Ko Maung of contravening Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law by insulting the military in a satirical comment about an army propaganda film called “Union Oath.”

The Burmese armed forces tolerate no criticism and do not hesitate to bring lawsuits under the Telecommunications Law whenever journalists cover subjects that reflect badly on them. This harassment persuades many journalists to censor themselves.

Under Section 66(d), “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person by using any telecommunications network” is punishable by up to three years in prison. Since Burma’s new civilian government took office, a total of 54 people have been accused under Section 66(d) and seven of them have been given prison sentences.

They include Myo Yan Naung Thein, a human rights activist and member of the ruling National League for Democracy, who was arrested last October for criticizing the commander-in- chief of the armed forces on Facebook.

Burma is ranked 131st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 23.08.2019