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Burma's courts must not help military to persecute journalists

A woman walks by the office of
A woman walks by the office of "The Voice Daily" in Yangon, Burma, 5 June 2017

AP Photo/Thein Zaw

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 21 June 2017.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Kyaw Min Swe, the editor of The Voice Daily, who is being held under Burma's 2013 Telecommunications Law as a result of a complaint by the military about a satirical article, and again urges the authorities to amend the law without delay.

A court ruled on 16 June 2017 that Kyaw Min Swe should remain in detention pending trial on 23 June, but ordered the release of Kyaw Zwa Naing, The Voice Daily journalist who wrote the article, because it was Kyaw Min Swe who posted the offending article online.

Kyaw Min Swe and Kyaw Zwa Naing, who is better known by the pen name of British Ko Ko Maung, were arrested on 2 June under article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law for allegedly defaming the armed forces in an article mocking a military propaganda film.

The Voice Daily is one of Burma's leading newspapers but the scope of article 66(d) is limited to content posted online.

RSF urges Burma's justice system to dismiss the military complaint and to release Kyaw Min Swe at once. RSF also condemns the frequent abusive recourse to article 66(d) to censor those who dare to criticize the authorities.

This article, which penalizes "extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person by using any telecommunications network", is too often used as the grounds for unfounded prosecutions.

Eleven Media's CEO and editor were arrested under article 66(d) in November 2016 over a story about alleged regional government corruption. Researcher Myo Yan Naung Thein was given a six-month jail sentence under article 66(d) on 7 April 2017 for criticizing the head of the armed forces on Facebook. He was released five days later.

Burma is ranked 131st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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