Myanmar Now editor charged under 66(D) for insulting 969 leader Wirathu

Swe Win receiving an award from Information Minister Pe Myint in 2016. Photo: MOI
Swe Win receiving an award from Information Minister Pe Myint in 2016. Photo: MOI

Myanmar Now editor-in-chief Swe Win was charged yesterday under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, he confirmed on Facebook.

Kyaw Myo Shwe, a supporter of Mandalay-based, anti-Muslim monk Ashin Wirathu, filed the suit at the No.7 Police Station in Mandalay. Wirathu, the leader of the ultra-nationalist 969 movement, was once dubbed by Time as “the face of Buddhist terror.”

Kyaw Myo Shwe filed the charges in retaliation to a post on the Facebook page of Ba Kaung (aka Swe Win), who had written: “Wirathu has transgressed the Parazika rules, and his monkhood is over, but this can’t be the first time that he’s broken these rules.”

The post referred to Wirathu’s thanking of men who orchestrated the murder of NLD legal advisor Ko Ni, who was also a prominent Muslim lawyer.

Swe Win was hailed as a hero last year for his reporting on the years-long abuse suffered by two maids working at the Innwa Tailor Shop in downtown Yangon. He received an award from the Myanmar government for his work. Several journalists and citizens have already voiced their support for Swe Win on social media.

Following the news, the journalist took to Facebook again to clear up the situation in his own words. As of this morning, he had yet to be officially contacted by the authorities, though he was aware that a case had been opened.

Swe Win also posted: “If legal action is taken against me without any real cause, but not against people who publicly support a criminal act, then it’ll become obvious how this country’s authorities cannot implement the proper rules and regulations.”

“We all know that U Wirathu has been publicly thanking U Ko Ni’s murderers. We also know that the concerned authorities haven’t taken any action against someone who’s supporting such a horrific crime. I wrote an article about this and when I asked Mandalay-based monk U Sein Dago Wu on his opinion, he said that U Wirathu’s words had violated the rules of Parazika. I put his answer in the article and on my Facebook…I take full responsibility for my actions,” he wrote.

Swe Win wrote that he was aware that other people had also insulted Wirathu online, and that his “kalar [biased]” coverage of the news was probably a factor in Ma Ba Tha taking legal action against him.

Noting that he didn’t care whether others referred to them as a “kalar newspaper,” he explained, “Our duty is to cover the news without any biases towards ethnicity, religion, or [land] boundaries, and to tell the truth as it is. What we do pay attention to is that our writing is accurate, that it supports the general principles to which everyone should hold each other accountable, and that it views human beings as human beings and sympathizes with human beings as human beings.”

The post ended: “If they come arrest me, I would like to ask my wife, daughter, and mother to be understanding [of the situation]…18 years ago, when I was 20, I was jailed for 21 years for disrupting the national peace. I didn’t run away then, and I’m not running away now.”

This morning, Swe Win wrote another post reaffirming that he had yet to be approached by police, and added, “I’ve learned that if the victim is not a government authority, they cannot use 66(d) to sue an individual. Ma Ba Tha is not a governmental organization, which means a case cannot be opened [under 66(d)] on their behalf. Wirathu himself didn’t open the case either, so I don’t know why the police accepted the case.”

Correction: An earlier version stated that Swe Win had deleted the original post for which he is being charged. It has not been deleted, and is still available on Ba Kaung’s page. We apologize for the error.

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