Bail denied for two Myanmar journalists facing defamation charges

EMG CEO Than Htut Aung entering court in Rangoon on November 25 and he and his colleague Wai Phyo face criminal defamation charges. Credit: AFP/Romeo Gacad

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA) strongly criticize the rejection of the bail application of two staff from Eleven Media Group in Yangon on November 30, 2016. The IFJ calls on the Tamwe Township Court to immediately revise the decision and release the two journalists.

On November 30, the criminal defamation trial of Eleven Media Group (EMG) CEO, U Than Htut Aung and chief editor, U Wai Phyo continued at the Tamwe Township Court. Aung and Phyo were sued for criminal defamation, by the Rangoon chief minister in early November under Article 66(d) of Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law. The case relates to an editorial published by EMG on November 8, regarding the Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, written by Aung. The editorial claimed that the watch worn by the chief minister worth USD100, 000, which was gifted to him by a wealthy benefactor. The following day, the chief minister sued Phyo and Aung.

The two journalists remain in police custody in Rangoon’s Insein Prison. They had made the bail application for health reasons; however at yesterday’s hearing it was formally rejected. The next court date for the case is December 9. If found guilty, they face a maximum of three years in prison.

The IFJ said: “We strongly criticize the defamation charges brought against U Than Htut Aung and U Wai Phyo, and demand that they are immediately dropped. We also call on the local authorities to immediately grant bail to Aung and Phyo due to health concerns. The imprisonment of journalists without trial is a violation of press freedom. The Myanmar Government needs to take immediate action to ensure its laws support and promote press freedom, not suppress and imprison the media community.”   

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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