Myanmar court drops case against journalist

Swe Win, center, the editor of Myanmar Now, is escorted to a court by police in Mandalay on July 31, 2017 for his hearing over allegations of violating the Myanmar’s telecommunications law. (AFP)
Updated 03 July 2019
0

Myanmar court drops case against journalist

  • Myanmar Now editor Swe Win had been on trial for two years
  • Myanmar is currently ranked 138th in the world for press freedom

YANGON: A prominent Myanmar journalist accused of defaming a hard-line nationalist monk dubbed the “Buddhist Bin Laden” has had the case against him dropped, his lawyer said.
Myanmar Now editor Swe Win had been on trial for two years after posting an article on Facebook criticizing the preacher abbot Wirathu.
The monk is notorious for spewing Islamophobic vitriol, in particular against the Rohingya minority, and is now himself on-the-run from the law.
His supporters in 2017 pressed charges against the journalist under the country’s telecommunications law, often used against reporters and activists.
But the court dismissed the case Tuesday, Swe Win’s lawyer Ywut Nu Aung said.
“All charges were completely dropped,” she said, explaining that four prosecution witnesses had contravened court orders to turn up more than 20 times.
The article posted by Swe Win quoted an abbot calling for Wirathu to be expelled from monkhood for publicly praising the killers of a respected Muslim lawyer.
Ko Ni, a close confidant of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was shot dead in January 2017 while cradling his grandson.
Swe Win said Wednesday he was relieved his ordeal was over but said the court should never have accepted the case.
“Criticizing someone for praising a murder is not a crime,” he said.
Describing the emotional and financial burden on him and his family, Swe Win said he made the 16-hour return trip from Yangon to the Mandalay court 71 times in two years.
Wirathu’s supporters have vowed to continue the legal fight against the reporter.
The abbot himself is currently facing charges for sedition but remains at large.
He recently gave several provocative speeches at nationalist rallies, making obscene remarks about Suu Kyi and urging people to worship soldiers like “Buddha.”
Facebook blacklisted him last year for his incendiary posts against the Rohingya.
Rights groups say the posts helped whip up animosity, laying foundations for a military crackdown in 2017 that forced some 740,000 to flee to Bangladesh.
The dismissal of the case against Swe Win was likely because of the government’s “new, highly negative view” of Wirathu rather than any commitment to freedom of expression, Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch said.
Myanmar is currently ranked 138th in the world for press freedom with the number of defamation cases dramatically rising since Suu Kyi’s government came to power in 2016.


Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

Updated 21 July 2019
0

Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

  • Twitter said the accounts harassed people linked to the Baha’i faith
  • The Baha’i faith is a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran

WASHINGTON: A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith.
Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure.
But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran.
It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.
“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts.
Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.
Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.
“Since last night and after seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz the account of the Young Journalists’ Club and some other users have been suspended,” the YJC said on its website.
Mehr noted that its Mehr Diplomacy account, which publishes analysis and interviews on foreign policy, was also offline.
Another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hard-line public speaker.
None of the owners of the suspended accounts said they had been given any reason for the move by Twitter.
The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private network, or VPN, to bypass censorship.