Myanmar Police Detain Media Officials Named in Defamation Lawsuit

myanmar-editor-wai-phyo-eleven-media-yangon-nov11-2016.jpg Wai Phyo (R), chief editor of Myanmar's Eleven Media Group, arrives in handcuffs at a court in Yangon, Nov. 11, 2016.

The chief executive and top editor of Myanmar’s embattled Eleven Media Group surrendered themselves to police in the commercial capital Yangon on Friday after receiving a summons related to a defamation case, a local police chief said.

Than Htut Aung, head of Eleven Media Group, which publishes several newspapers and websites, and Wai Phyo, chief editor of the Daily Eleven newspaper, turned themselves in at Yangon’s Eastern District police station a day after they failed to appear there for questioning, prompting police to issue an arrest warrant.

“While we were looking for them to carry out our investigation, the two gave themselves up at 1 p.m. at the station,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Myint Htwe, head of Yangon’s Eastern District police force, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“I’m now sending them to Tamwe police station,” he said, referring to a station in Yangon’s Pazundaung township.

Earlier this week, Than Htut Aung published an editorial in Daily Eleven about a government official who had received a $100,000 luxury watch from an unnamed drug tycoon. The tycoon, who had recently been released from jail, won a lucrative tender from the government’s term to build a city transit project.

From the information provided in the editorial, it was clear that the official was Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon region.

Eleven Media Group posted more details the next day on Facebook, saying that the information came from two businesspeople whom it refused to identify, prompting Yangon government authorities to file a lawsuit against Than Htut Aung and Wai Phyo.

Myint Htwe said he will make the necessary preparations to prosecute Than Htut Aung and Wai Phyo under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which prohibits use of the telecom network to defame people and carries a jail sentence of up to three years and a fine for those who violate it.

“There shouldn’t be this Sectin 66(d),” Than Htut Aung told reporters at the police station.

Phyo Min Thein, a former political prisoner, said the allegations against him were meant to defame him, Reuters reported.

He and Than Htut Aung were transferred on Friday to Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison where they will remain for two weeks, the report said, citing domestic media.

Myanmar’s Legal Aid Network issued a statement on Friday objecting to the action taken against Daily Eleven and criticized the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party government for appearing to backpedal on freedom of speech, Eleven Myanmar media group reported on its English-language website.

Reported by: Kyaw Lwin Oo and Kaung Htet Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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