Originally published on the BNI website on 18 November 2016.
Five Burmese media organizations have urged the Yangon Region Government to stop the potential threat to media freedom and cooperate with the Myanmar Press Council in order to solve the case against Eleven Media Group’s chief executive officer and chief editor in accordance with the media law, according to their released statement.
Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), Myanmar Journal Union (MJU), Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MNLN) and Burma News International (BNI) released the statement on Sunday [November 13], calling on the Yangon Region’s Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, who filed a complaint against the Eleven Media Group CEO Dr.Than Htut Aung and Chief Editor Ko Wai Phyo under Article 66 (d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law, to solve the case in accordance with the media law.
On November 9, U Phyo Min Thein said at a press conference, “I have sued Dr. Than Htut Aung and Eleven Media Group under Article 66 (d) for their Facebook post. I am also preparing to take legal proceedings against them for their newspaper publication”, referring to an editorial written by Dr. Than Htut Aung.
The editorial was featured in the November 6 issue of Eleven Media’s daily newspaper, with the headline reading “A Year After the November 8 Poll” and stated “many citizens, whose minimum daily wage is USD 2.50 are not satisfied with the news that a chief minister, whose monthly salary is only around USD 2,500, wears a Patek Philiphee watch worth about USD 100,000”.
The five Burmese media organizations’ statement reported that charging the Eleven Media Group with the Telecommunication Law article 66 (d) was the Yangon Region Chief Minister turning a blind eye on the country’s media law and the press council as well as stopping the freedom of expression.
The statement went on to claim that charging them will damage the dignity of the government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party whom the people elected. Especially, since the Yangon Region Government of the NLD is using an article employed by the previous government.
Legal Aid Network also released a statement on November 11, stating that it was a mistake to charge the Eleven Media Group under the telecommunication law. The Eleven Media Group’s role is to communicate to the public. Thus, the Yangon Region government should not charge them with telecommunication law, but it could press charges under media law if necessary.
Likewise, PEN Myanmar, Asian News Network and Committee to Protect Journalists, respectively, released statements calling for the removal of charges against the Eleven Media Group CEO Dr. Than Htut Aung and Chief Editor Ko Wai Phyo.
Eleven Media Group have agreed to cooperate with the investigation, under the proviso that it is a transparent and fair process.
In order for media organizations to report ethically and to solve the media conflict, media law and the media conduct of ethics were passed — and the press council was also founded.
Article 66 (d) of Telecommunications Law was passed in 2013, and since passing the law, 7 people were charged with the article. And, during the current government’s last 7 months in office, 29 cases were charged with article 66 (d).