By Myanmar Eleven
Asia News Network
They said the case should be considered under the Myanmar Media Law which prescribes rules and guidelines as well as a code of ethics, with the media council acting as an arbitration body to resolve disputes.
The five Myanmar media organisationsseethe lawsuit against the two journalists from Eleven Media under section 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Law as an attempt by authorities to turn a blind eye to the Media Law and the role of the media council, and as an attempt to curtail freedom of expression.
The defamation case was filed by the Yangon Region government on behalf of the chief minister. The two journalists were taken to prison without bail or a court hearing after they turned themselves in to the local police station to face the charge. The court hearing is not due till November 25.
The joint statement was issued by MPC, Myanmar Journalists Association, Myanmar Journalists Network, Myanmar Lawyers Network and Burma News International.
They said that for a democratic system to flourish,the development of keypillars that carry out checks and balances was crucial. An independent and responsible media performs an important role to ensure checks and balances on thefunctioning of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches.
“We all believe that filing a lawsuit against the Eleven Media Group by the Yangon Region chief minister under section 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Law would tantamountto neglecting the Press Law and the Press Council, and in consequence a suppression of the freedom of expression. We are not arguing about the accuracy of the facts and figures in this case, but we are pointing to the manner in which action was taken,” the statement said.
The government’suseof Section 66 (d) is seen as a tool to limit people’s freedom of expression, which is the lifeblood of democracy. In this case, the ruling Yangon Region government, which secured majority votes in the election, used the telecom law applied by the previous government instead of the Media Law. “We believe this may tarnish the dignity of the government,” the statement said.
The five organisations urged media houses to make sure of the accuracy of facts and figures in their news and opinions. “If something is wrong in the publications, we urge accountability and responsibility for the sake of the public.”
They urged the Yangon Region government to terminate immediately prosecution under the Telecommunications Law, which threatens the free expression of the media, and asked the government to cooperate with the press council.
Meanwhile, a lawyer said bail must be given to the two journalists of the Eleven Media Group who are facing charges under Section 66 (d) of Telecommunications Law.
Kyaw Lin told a press conference that the detentions of Eleven Media CEO Dr Than Htut Aung, and chief editor Wai Phyo are entirely against the law.
“The Telecommunications Law was enacted in October 2013 while the Media Law was enacted in March 2014. According to the provisions of Section 3 (g) of the word definition in 1973, if the previouslaw is different from the later one, then the latter must be approved and used,” he said.
Consequently, the use of the Telecommunications Law is a violation of the law. Instead, the Media Law should be used. Section 2 (a) of the Media Law states that the law covers print media and broadcasting media as well as the Internet mediaand the editor takes responsibility. For that reason, the two accused persons are journalists and consequently they should be sued only under the Media Law,” he added.