Myanmar: Appeal hearing against defamation charges against editor

Mandalay District court allowed an appeal hearing against the decision to drop defamation charges against the editor of Myanmar Now Ko Swe Win. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticises the decision to appeal the decision to drop the charges.

Ko Swe Win appears in court in Maha Aungmyay Township, Mandalay Region, in July 2017. Credit: Supplied / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

According to the Irrawaddy, the complainant Ko Kyaw Myo Shwe, has submitted the appeal on Monday, August 26 following the decision of Maha Aung Myay Township Court to drop the charge against Ko Swe Win. The lawyer for the plaintiff U Zaw Weik said that the court has accepted the appeal and the hearing will start from both sides on Tuesday, September 9.

The case began two years ago when Ko Kyaw Myo Shwe filed a lawsuit against Ko Swe Win on Tuesday, March 7, accusing the journalist of insulting nasionalist monk Ashin Wirath on his post on Facebook under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law.

The defamation charges against Ko Swe Win relate to a story he shared from Myanmar Now regarding the killing of U Ko Ni, National League for Democracy legal advisor.

On Sunday, July 30, 2017, Ko Swe Win was arrested at Yangon International Airport when he was scheduled to visit Bangkok, Thailand for a brief work trip. He was then being held at Mingaladon police station. The plaintiff Kyaw Myo Shwe has informed to Mandalay police that the editor was leaving the country and demanded his arrest. It was unclear on how Ko Kyaw Myo Shwe received the information of the journalist’s travel plan.

Ko Swe Win denied the allegation that he was trying to leave the country. He has travelled many times to the border areas to cover the news and has cooperated with the police for his lawsuit. The court then released him on bail amounting to 5 million kyats or around USD 3,285 one day after he was arrested.    

The Mandalay District Court has dropped the case on July 2 after plaintiff’s witnesses including U Wirathu have failed to appear on the trial. The hearing an appeal might bring the possibility to reopen the defamation charge against Ko Swe Win. On Friday, August 2, Ko Swe Win has received Ramon Magsaysay Award 2019 for Emergent Leadership for his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar.

The IFJ said: “We condemn the decision of the Mandalay District court on agreeing to have the hearing for an appeal against Ko Swe Win. The court should stop the hearing and stick with the earlier decision to drop the defamation case aiming to intimidate journalist. We call the authorities to amend the Article 66(d) which is being used to obstruct the press freedom and free speech in Myanmar.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
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