Police in Myanmar’s Yangon city appear set to arrest three journalists working for the Eleven Media Group on still unspecified charges after they published an article focusing on the city’s budget, sources in the country say.
Officers came looking for the three—chief editor Kyaw Zaw Linn, chief reporter Nayee Min, and senior editor Phyo Wai—at their office at about 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Eleven Media editor and spokesperson Ko Oo told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“They said a case had been opened under Section 505(b),” he said, referring to the section of Myanmar’s penal code that criminalizes the circulation of statements and reports with the intent to cause fear or alarm in the public.
“We told them that the men had left the office because they had finished their work, but the police waited for about an hour and a half,” he said.
“Later, they talked to our publishers and said they would continue their questions either here at 10:00 in the morning or at the police station.”
Police would not say who had brought charges against the men, or why they were being sought, Ko Oo said, adding that nothing was said concerning any article they wrote that may have caused offense.
However, reports on social media tie the men’s troubles to an Oct. 6 article published in Eleven Media’s daily print edition titled “Skepticism on the Yangon Division Budget.”
Responding to a reporter’s phone call seeking comment, an officer at the Tamwe Township police station confirmed a case had been opened against the three, but refused to provide details, suggesting the reporter call the township court in the morning.
“They can tell you what the charges are about. You’ll find out everything about this then,” he said.
Section 505(b) of Myanmar’s penal code carries a maximum punishment of two years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both, and usually does not allow for bail to be granted.
An increasing number of defamation suits under vaguely worded laws have also recently been filed in Myanmar by government and judicial officials, Buddhist monks, and military officers to silence their critics, especially journalists.
As a result, Myanmar journalists and rights groups have slammed the two-year-old civilian government under de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for appearing to backpedal on press freedom and other rights after decades of stifling military rule in Myanmar.
The government has also faced international condemnation over the jailing last month of two Reuters reporters for seven years for breaching a law on state secrets during their reporting on the killing of Muslim Rohingya villagers by security forces amid a crackdown in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Reported by Nandar Chann for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.