World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Myanmar: End Judicial Harassment of Swe Win, Drop Charges

Myanmar: End Judicial Harassment of Swe Win, Drop Charges

Decision today extended pre-trial bail of journalist Swe Win, next hearingMonday

(Yangon, October 27, 2017)—The Myanmar authorities should immediately and unconditionally drop charges against journalist Swe Win, said Fortify Rights today. Swe Win faces criminal defamation charges for criticizing the extremist Buddhist monk Wirathu on Facebook. He is currently free on bail, which the Mandalay District Court reaffirmed in a hearing today. His next pre-trial hearing in the Mahar Aung Myay Township Court is scheduled for October 30.

Swe Win faces up to three years in Myanmar prison for exercising his rights. Watch the #FortiFilm on his case.

“The ongoing judicial harassment of Swe Win is an indicator of the threat every journalist faces in Myanmar,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “The Myanmar authorities should drop these charges against Swe Win, amend unjust laws, and stop criminalizing journalists’ work.”

Swe Win criticized the extremist Buddhist monk Wirathu in a Facebook post in February 2017, in response to which Kyaw Myo Shwe—a citizen of Myanmar—filed a complaint against Swe Win at the Maha Aungmyay Township police station in Mandalay on March 7.

On July 30, Myanmar Police arrested Swe Win at Yangon International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Bangkok. The police transferred him to Oboe Prison and charged him with criminal defamation under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law. The law criminalizes “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.” The Maha Aung Myay Township Court granted Swe Win bail on July 31, 2017.

On August 29, the plaintiff, Kyaw Myo Shwe, filed an application in the Mandalay District Court asking the court to reconsider the Mahar Aung Myay Township Court's decision to grant bail. The District Court held a hearing on the application on October 13 and issued a decision this morning to allow Swe Win’s release on bail.

Swe Win faces up to three years’ imprisonment if convicted.

Swe Win has travelled from Yangon to Mandalay for ten scheduled pre-trial court appearances at the Mahar Aung Myay Township Court, facing Wirathu supporters at the court. Several of these hearings were adjourned because the plaintiff, Kyaw Myo Shwe, failed to appear. Kyaw Myo Shwe has also failed to provide a witness list to the court. The plaintiff’s recent application to revoke Swe Win’s bail appears to be another attempt to delay the trial.

“Swe Win has the right to bail under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law,” Swe Win’s legal advisor, Khin Maung Myint, told Fortify Rights before today’s decision. “There is no legitimate basis for the application and the District Court should reject the appeal.”

Swe Win’s case is part of a worrying trend in Myanmar. During the last several months, the Myanmar authorities have charged at least four other journalists with criminal defamation or unlawful association for carrying out their legitimate work. In March, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, received communications regarding around 170 individuals imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. She stated that the increasing use of Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act (2013) is particularly worrying, with more than 45 cases reported, most in the last year.

Although the Myanmar authorities dropped the charges against the four journalists in September, the chilling effect remains, Fortify Rights said.

Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law is contrary to international human rights law, including Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects the right to freedom of expression. Restrictions on freedom of expression are permissible only when they are provided by law, proportional, and necessary to accomplish a legitimate aim.

International human rights law also protects the right to a fair trial. Article 14 of the ICCPR provides that everyone shall be “tried without undue delay.” The repeated delays in Swe Win’s case violates his right to an expeditious trial.

The Government of Myanmar should the drop charges against Swe Win and other journalists exercising their legitimate rights to free speech and decriminalize defamation by amending section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law.

“Journalists play a vital role in imparting and disseminating information,” said Matthew Smith. “Parliament should immediately amend the law to decriminalize defamation and the authorities should put an end to this crackdown.”

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Tale Of Two Pandemics: Follow The Science And Do Not Forget One At The Cost Of The Other

Covid-19 has posed innumerable health, economic, and social challenges for all, including people living with HIV. It has exposed the fragility of health systems around the globe and has diverted political attention and funding from other infectious diseases like TB and HIV... More>>

UN: Rights Chief Calls For Prompt Release Of Protestors Held In Cuba
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday called for the prompt release of protestors and journalists detained during anti-government demonstrations in Cuba, some of whom are being held incommunicado... More>>

Scarce Goods: Isolating Daraa Al-Balad Threatens 40,000 With Starvation

The siege imposed by the Syrian government forces on Daraa al-Balad since June 24 would lead to serious humanitarian repercussions if it continues, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement on July 15, calling for lifting the siege urgently and allowing the entry of basic humanitarian supplies... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

Shaping The Future Of Food Systems: Thousands Commit To Dialogues Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

More than 130 governments are making food systems a top priority amid the pandemic and committing to an unprecedented programme of Dialogues in the run up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September... More>>

UN: Play:Fair For People And Planet – A Major United Nations Music Activation
organized by the UN SDG Action Campaign in partnership with Music Innovation Hub, Keychange, the city of Milan, the Milan Triennale, and partners from the SDG Music Network, will be held at an unexpected location in the center of Milan, Italy, taking into account safety measures with a limited on-site audience consisting of activists and fans... More>>

UN: Next 18 Months Seen As Pivotal In Global Efforts To Achieve Key Goals

Next 18 months seen as pivotal in global efforts to reverse punishing pandemic impacts and boost actions to achieve key goals - Even as pandemic erases decades of gains in development, response efforts show signs of renewed global commitment to accelerate SDG progress... More>>