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

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.


‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News’ multimedia project tells full story of 1979 Makkah siege

Updated 19 November 2019

‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News’ multimedia project tells full story of 1979 Makkah siege

  • Featuring interviews with key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s English-language newspaper tells the full story of the unthinkable event that cast a shadow over its society for decades
  • As part of its Deep Dive series online, featuring documentary-style multimedia stories, Arab News looks back at this event in a way no Saudi publication has done before

Forty years ago this week, on Nov. 20, 1979, a group of militants did the unthinkable: They seized the Grand Mosque in Makkah, taking people hostage inside in a two-week standoff with Saudi forces.

Until recently, the crisis remained too painful for Saudis to examine fully for almost four decades. Now Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English-language daily, is looking back at the event in a way that no publication in the Kingdom has done before: with a multimedia Deep Dive story online at arabnews.com/juhayman-40-years-on.

“The 1979 attack on Makkah’s  Grand Mosque halted major social development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, negatively affecting a progressing nation for generations to come,” said Rawan Radwan, the lead reporter on the project, who is based in Jeddah. “At Arab News, we delved deep into the matter to uncover the story of Juhayman, the terrorist who seized the holiest site and shook the Islamic world. It’s a story that for many years struck fear in the hearts of the Saudi people, yet has not been covered in such depth in local or international media — until now.”

Arab News launched its Deep Dive series earlier this year as an engaging new way to showcase its in-depth storytelling on key topics, enlivened by audio, video and animated graphics. Its first story was an in-depth account of the space mission by the first Arab astronaut, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman; the siege of Makkah is another story from the Kingdom’s past that it chose to revisit.

Extensive research was conducted over two months in several cities, including Makkah itself, and involved teams in five of Arab News’ bureaus: Jeddah, Riyadh, Dubai, London and Beirut. The team interviewed key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, then head of the General Intelligence Directorate, and re-created what happened in a series of interactive maps.

 

Juhayman: 40 years on
On the anniversary of the 1979 attack on Makkah's Grand Mosque, Arab News tells the full story of an unthinkable event that shocked the Islamic world and cast a shadow over Saudi society for decades
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