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Mining ministry to sue "The Voice" weekly magazine

UPDATE: Judge rejects request to move "Voice" libel suit (Mizzima, 21 June 2012)

(Mizzima/IFEX) - 14 March 2012 - The Ministry of Mines announced on Wednesday 14 March that it would sue the weekly news journal, "The Voice", which has published a story saying that several Burmese government ministries were cited for transgressions in a Union auditor-general's report.

"The Voice"'s latest issue on 12 March said that the Ministry of Mines sold 50 per cent of shares in the Monywa copper mines, owned by the ministry, to the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL), but that a foreign company paid the money on behalf of UMEHL.

The amount of the sale was US$100 million. The Ministry of Mines denied the journal's allegation, saying that there was no misuse of funds, no manipulating of finances, no secrets and no cheating, according to a ministry announcement in the state-run newspaper, "The Mirror".

Kyaw Min Swe, the chief editor of "The Voice", told Mizzima that the journal's news is based on a 36-page report sent by the Union auditor-general to the Lower House's Public Accounts Committee.

"All of the facts are reliable," he said. "We've got 36-page report . . . In fact, our news does not contain all the details of the report. The details of it are more serious," said Kyaw Min Swe.

The Ministry of Mines said in the state-run newspaper that the journal's information was not true and it damaged the reputation of the ministry.

"We will take legal action against the publisher of 'The Voice' and the reporter because they wrote things which are not true," it said.

Kyaw Min Swe said, "We want to solve it in a conciliatory way. The ministry and us are not enemies. We need to provide mutual help to each other. The ministries say they are working for the citizens, and so do we."

The news story said that the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Ministry of Industry 1 and Ministry of Industry 2 were all cited as involved in misusing funds and misstating finances.

The article said that the auditor-general's office found that the Ministry of Information misused state money obtained from selling state-run newspapers, involving 250 million kyat (about US$316, 600).

The Ministry of Industry 1, according to the report, illegally sold more than 200,000 gallons of fuel, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the Ministry of Industry 1 and 2 misrepresented profits while losing funds, according to "The Voice". The ministries made the misstatements during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, under the former junta, said "The Voice".

Chief Editor Kyaw Min Swe told Mizzima that all of the figures and information mentioned came from the report submitted by the auditor-general to the Lower House's Public Accounts Committee.

Talking about the lack of prior censorship on the news story, Kyaw Min Swe said, "It was too late to submit the copy of the story to the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division [prior to the release of the journal's issue]. When we got the information, it was late evening, and we did not have enough time to submit it. But, the information is reliable and accurate."

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