The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA) in strongly criticizing the charges of criminal defamation against three journalists. The IFJ and MJA called for the all charges of criminal defamation against journalists across Myanmar to be immediately withdrawn.
On June 15, three Magwe-based journalists were charged with criminal defamation under Article 66(d) of Myanmar’s Telecommunications Act. The three journalists, U Tin Shwe, editor-in-charge of local media outlet MGY News and Yatha Sone Journal, and reporters Ma Pu Pwint Nay Chi and Ma Zar Za San of the same outlet, were charged after U Htay Lwin, administrator of Mel Hla Taung village-tract filed a complaint with Magwe Township No. 2 Police Station. The complaint related to a Facebook post by U Tin Shwe on May 28, which questioned the legality of a construction project in a village in Mel Hla Taung village-tract. Ma Zar Zar San was charged because she commented on the Facebook post, while it remains unclear why Ma Pu Pwint Nay Chi was charged.
According to reports, U Htay Lwin accused Shwe of publishing misinformation, as he named the wrong village in the Facebook post. Lwin told The Irrawaddy that “I heard that I have been charged, but police have not yet informed me. Ma Zar Zar San was charged because she wrote a comment under my post. But, I don’t know why Ma Pu Pwint Nay Chi was charged.”
These are the latest journalists to be charged with defamation under the controversial legislation. According to The Irrawaddy, 60 cases have been filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act by the current government. On June 1, Kyaw Min Swe and Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing were arrested, detained and charged under the same legislation.
The growing number of criminal defamation charges against journalists has been criticized by local journalists and international organisations as an attack on press freedom. In early June, over 100 Myanmar journalists gathered in Yangon to call on the government to abolish the law and withdrawn all cases against journalists under Article 66(d).
MJA said: “MJA continues to work to protect journalists. The Media Law was introduced to deal with issues such as these. As such, we call for the government to abolish Article 66(d) and use the Media Law for any issues and mediation processes. MJA will never accept any cases against journalists under Article 66(d).”
The IFJ said: “The growing and continued use of Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act against journalists is an attempt to silence critical voices and intimidate the media. We join MJA in calling on the government to abolish the law and ensure press freedom in Myanmar.”
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