Myanmar’s Eleven Media Journalists Refuse to Apologize to Yangon Government Over Report

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Detained Myanmar journalists Kyaw Zaw Lin (2nd L) and Phyo Wai Win (2nd R) leave court after a pretrial hearing in Yangon, Oct. 17, 2018.
Detained Myanmar journalists Kyaw Zaw Lin (2nd L) and Phyo Wai Win (2nd R) leave court after a pretrial hearing in Yangon, Oct. 17, 2018.

Three journalists from Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group have refused to apologize to the Yangon regional government for a report criticizing its business dealings and budget, and they stand behind the reporting that prompted criminal charges of incitement against them, said the news outlet’s editor-in-chief on Tuesday.

Chief reporter Phyo Wai Win and top editors Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nari Min were arrested and detained in October on charges of committing offenses against the state for publishing an article with a critical focus on Yangon government spending. The article charged that officials mismanaged public funds through business dealings by the region’s Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein.

Though the journalists welcomed a move by Yangon officials to drop the case in November, the journalists maintain that the report is factually correct and that they have no reason to apologize as the chief minister has requested, chief editor Kyaw Zaw Lin told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

RFA was unable to reach plaintiff Aung Kyaw Khine, director of the Yangon regional government who had filed the court case, for comment. He previously said that the article published in the Weekly Eleven News Journal on Oct. 8 damaged the dignity of the Yangon government.

The journalists were arrested in October and charged under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code, a vaguely-worded section that prohibits the publication or circulation of any statement, rumor, or report with intent to cause “fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the state or against the public tranquility.”

After President Win Myint issued a directive calling on the Yangon government to cooperate with the Myanmar Press Council (MPC) to try to resolve the complaint under the country’s Media Law before taking it to court, officials withdrew the case and freed the men on 10 million kyats (U.S. $6,300) bail.

Yangon officials said they would submit the dispute to the MPC, though Phyo Min Thien pledged to continue with the legal case if the journalists refused to satisfy his demand for an apology after the negotiations.

Lack of transparency

In the meantime, the journalists have met with the MPC three times to explain why they wrote and published the article, Kyaw Zaw Lin said.

The Yangon regional government has said that information the journalists used in the report was incorrect and has asked them to apologize for it, he said.

“We told them that the facts we used in the article were included in quotes from regional lawmakers based on the auditor general’s report,” Kyaw Zaw Lin said.

“We told them that we can find a solution though discussions with the Yangon regional government, the Myanmar Press Council, parliament, and the auditor general,” he said.

Hla Htay, a lawmaker in the Yangon regional parliament, said the case against the journalists occurred because of a lack of transparency concerning company investments.

“If the government officially released the rules and regulations for company investments, it would be clear” whether the regional government had mismanaged funds as the report indicates, he told RFA.

Regional lawmakers have discussed the issue in parliament, but no one from the Yangon government has responded or offered an explanation, he said.

Meanwhile, MPC chairman Ohn Kyaing said that council members are waiting to be invited to the Yangon regional government’s office again to mediate between both sides.

Reported by Thet Su Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (2)

Yangon Thar

from Markham

Maybe the media is pining for the return the good old days of censor board and ministry of information supervision instead of normal self-regulation and usage of multiple verifiable sources.

Dec 06, 2018 08:32 PM

Sai Lin Kan

The minister should be filed defamation lawsuit against Eleven Media and the reporter and it’s not a criminal case.
It seems to be the legal advisor to the Minister does not understand the differences between a civil case and a criminal case.
The reporter was intentionally reporting misinformation about the Ministry and the Minister is a civil case and the Minister should be filed for a defamation lawsuit against the Eleven Media and the reporter.
The Eleven Media and its founder Than Thut Aung have been defamed and reporting misinformation about Yangon Region Government, Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein and his Government since NLD came into power. Perhaps, Than Thut Aung personally disliked or jealous Yangon Region Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein. I don’t know about the Eleven Media founder Than Thut Aung but peoples are talking about Than Htut Aung was closed to USDP and former Information Minister Ye Thut from former President Thein Sein Government. It seems to be the Eleven Media and its reporters are intentionally trying to damage the Yangon Region Government and NLD Government reputation.
The Government has explained and corrected about the Eleven Media story and denied any wrongdoing at the Ministry and the Government. The Eleven Media and the reporter stand by their story and reject the Government’s explanation and corrected the Eleven Media’s story.
So the Minister has to file defamation lawsuit against the Eleven Media and its reporter and do not to charge with criminal offense.
The Media and reporters should be accountable for their story and they should not be broken the ethics of journalism and moral obligation of their professional and readers.
The reporter and the media must contact the office and the Ministry whether their information was correct or not before publishing a story. If they have published wrong information and then they must correct their report as soon as possible and officially apology to the person or the Ministry or Government. If they don’t do it and then the Government has to file defamation lawsuit against the Media Company and its reporter, bring them to the Court.
The Media and reporters should not be confused between media freedom and intentionally trying to the damage reputation by reporting misinformation about the person or the organization.

Dec 06, 2018 02:20 PM





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