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Distinguished reporter facing defamation over Wirathu criticism

Myanmar Now Editor-in-Chief Swe Win, left, receives a commendation from Information Minister Pe Myint in Rangoon last year. (Photo: Ministry of Information)

A case was opened against Swe Win, the editor-in-chief of news outlet Myanmar Now, under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law on Tuesday evening, the defendant himself confirmed on Facebook.

Kyaw Myo Shwe, a donor of Mandalay-based monk and anti-Muslim 969 movement leader U Wirathu, filed the suit at the No. 7 Police Station in Mandalay. Wirathu was once dubbed by TIME magazine as “the face of Buddhist terror.”

The case was in retaliation to a now-deleted post on the Facebook page of Ba Kaung, a.k.a. Swe Win, who had written, “Ma Ba Tha, who has been quiet since the elections, is back. Wirathu has transgressed the Parazika rules and his monkhood is over, but this can’t be the first time that he’s broken these rules.” The post was in regard to Wirathu’s expressing thanks to the men who orchestrated the murder of National League for Democracy legal adviser Ko Ni, who was also a prominent Muslim lawyer.

Swe Win was hailed as a hero last year for his reporting on the years-long abuse suffered by two domestic maids working at the Inwa Tailor Shop in downtown Rangoon, and received a governmental honour for his work. Several journalists and citizens have already voiced their support for Swe Win on social media.

Following the news, the journalist took to Facebook again to clear up the situation in his own words. As of Wednesday morning, he had yet to be officially contacted by the authorities, although he was aware that a case had been opened.

Myanmar Now’s Facebook page shared Swe Win/Ba Kaung’s clarification post, adding, “If legal action is taken against myself without any real cause, but not against people who publicly support a criminal act, then it’ll become obvious how this country’s authorities cannot implement the proper rules and regulations.”

Ba Kaung’s post explained, “We all know that U Wirathu has been publicly thanking U Ko Ni’s murderers. We also know that the concerned authorities haven’t taken any action against someone who’s supporting such a horrific crime. I wrote an article about this and when I asked Mandalay-based monk U Sein Dago Wu on his opinion, he said that U Wirathu’s words had violated the rules of Parazika. I put his answer in the article and on my Facebook. … I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Swe Win wrote that he was aware that other people had also insulted Wirathu online, and that his “kalar [biased]” coverage of the news was probably a factor in Ma Ba Tha taking legal action against him.

Noting that he didn’t care whether others referred to Myanmar Now as a “kalar newspaper,” he explained, “Our duty is to cover the news without any biases toward ethnicity, religion, or [land] boundaries, and to tell the truth like it is. What we do pay attention to is that our writing is accurate, that it supports the general principles to which everyone should hold each other accountable, and that it views human beings as human beings and sympathises with human beings as human beings.”

The post ended, “If they come arrest me, I would like to ask my wife, daughter, and mother to be understanding [of the situation]. … Eighteen years ago, when I was 20, I was jailed for 21 years for disrupting the national peace. I didn’t run away then, and I’m not running away now.”

This story was originally published by Coconuts Yangon here