Myanmar Courts Free Detained Eleven Media Journalists on Bail

Three journalists from Eleven Media who were detained on incitement charges were each freed on 10 million Kyats bail Friday at Tamwe Township Court.

Chief reporter Phyo Wai Win, and editors, Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nayi Min had been arrested after the media outlet published an article with a critical focus on Yangon government spending.

Regional government director Aung Kyaw Khine filed the lawsuit on Oct. 9 against Eleven Media Group’s chief reporter Phyo Wai Win and managing editors Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nari Min over an article published the day before in the Weekly Eleven News Journal about the government’s business dealings and budget.

Phyo Wai Win told RFA’s Myanmar service that he will not cave in and apologize to the Yangon regional government as had been requested of him, and will instead stand trial.

The plaintiff, Aung Kyaw Khine, didn’t show up for Friday’s hearing for health reasons. RFA attempted to contact him for comment but was unable to reach him.

Explaining her decision to grant bail, judge Tin War War Thein told the court that she decided to free the three journalists because they had a responsibility to return to their jobs and were therefore not a flight risk.

The court freed us by following the rule of law, said Kyaw Zaw Lin. I will stand trial if the Yangon regional government wants to pursue this case further.

Phyo Wai Win says he is innocent. I am a reporter, and I wrote my articles based on accurate information, he said.

Their lawyer Kyi Myint argued that the government has no case.

The president has given a clear order to try to settle the dispute through negotiations with Myanmar’s Press Council, he said. The Yangon government has to take responsibility for this failure. They should follow the instructions of the president, he added.

Myanmar President Win Myint issued a directive on Oct. 17 calling on the Yangon government to cooperate with the Myanmar Press Council (MPC) and try to resolve the complaint under the Media Law, before taking it to court.

They were freed because the president ordered it, so we can’t say it is a victory for the media and for people who want justice. They’ve been freed on bail, so that means the government still wants them to stand trial, Thien Than Oo, a Myanmar-based lawyer told RFA.

Dr. Yan Myo, a political analyst said, It is great that they are free right now, but the government still needs to throw out the case. If they don’t, the people will criticize them even more, because they are ignoring the direct orders of the country’s most powerful person.

Sittwe resident jailed

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s crackdown on those critical of the government continued elsewhere Friday as a resident in Sittwe was sentenced to six months in prison for his comments on social media.

In the aftermath of a police crackdown in January that killed 7 and injured 12, the resident, Aung Than Wai had in May and June written Facebook posts that called out then Secretary of the Rakhine State government Tin Maung Swe.

The posts asked who had ordered the crackdown and who should be held accountable. Aung Than Wai was taken in on June 21.

My basic rights have been violated. The constitution grants citizens freedom of expression, Aung Than Wai told RFA.

My Facebook posts just asked who the killers were. I was arrested and jailed but nobody is taking any action against the killers, he added.

More than two years after a transition to civilian rule under national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar has drawn criticism from both domestic and international press freedom watchdogs for its heavy-handed treatment of journalists.

In September, a Yangon court sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison for violating a state secrets law while investigating a massacre of Rohingya civilians in Rakhine state, despite sworn testimony that they had been set up and the fact that their report was factual and led to the prosecution of soldiers for the killings.

Copyright (copyright) 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036