Myanmar Court Rejects Sixth Bail Request by Detained Editor

Kyaw Min Swe, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper The Voice Daily, awaits his next hearing on July 14.

Kyaw Min Swe (C), editor-in-chief of the independent Myanmar newspaper The Voice Daily, leaves Bahan township court after his sixth bail hearing in Yangon, June 7, 2017.

A court in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon on Friday rejected the sixth bail request by an editor charged with defamation of the military under a widely challenged section of the country’s Telecommunications Law, his lawyer said.

Bahan township court rejected the request of Kyaw Min Swe, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper The Voice Daily, citing a lack of sufficient facts, his lawyer Khin Maung Myint told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“We asked the judge what documents we need to submit,” Khin Maung Min said. “We can say that it is the medical document, but we know that the prison department can’t do that,” he said.

In mid-June, the court denied another bail request by Kyaw Min Swe, who suffers from stomach and liver ailments, because it said his lawyer had submitted an unofficial medical certificate from a private clinic instead of a formal document from a state medical facility.

Kyaw Min Swe was forced to get the certificate from an outside clinic because officials at Insein prison on the outskirts of Yangon where he is being held would not issue a medical document, Kyaw Min Swe said.

Lieutenant Colonel Lin Tun, who filed the defamation lawsuit against Kyaw Min Swe, testified at today’s hearing as he has done previously, and will testify at his next bail hearing on July 14.

Kyaw Min Swe and the paper’s satire columnist Kyaw Zwa Naing, who goes by the pen name British Ko Maung, were detained on June 2 and charged with defamation under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law after the armed forces complained about a piece they had published that mocked a military propaganda film.

On June 16, the same court released Kyaw Zwa Naing after Kyaw Min Swe testified that he was solely responsible for posting on social media the article that allegedly insulted the armed forces.

Myanmar journalists and rights groups have called for the abolishment of Article 66(d) which prohibits the use of the telecom network to defame people and carries a jail sentence of up to three years and a fine for those found guilty of violating it.

They say that government and military officials are increasingly using the article to silence their critics, thereby threatening freedom of the press.

Reported by Thant Sin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.