Words of those who attended the EMG’s briefing on the lawsuit against 17 editors filed by information ministry.
Phoe Thauk Kyar, a veteran journalist
“I have one thing to say. I had started working in the print media since Pha-Sa-Pa-La era, Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL). And I had been in the print media in the time of the Revolutionary Council government. Taking a look at three eras including the current government era, the best time for media is Pha-Sa-Pa-La era. This is the parliamentary democracy. Journalists fully enjoyed press freedom at that time. Myanmar’s press freedom stood third in Asia in 1957. The country was governed by the "Caretaker Government" (the 1958-1960 period). The country saw media freedom again during the period from 1960 to 1962. But media persons hesitated to cover the news due to the "Caretaker Government". There was no media freedom in the time of the Revolutionary Council government during the period from 1962 to 1974. The period from 1974 to 1988 (in the time of the Burma Socialist Programme Party) saw no freedom either. The current state-owned newspapers—Kyaemon and Myanmar Alin—are originated from the single party system. So these two papers are not put in the newspaper lists. They are regarded as the government’s propagandists. The fears inherited from us still overshadow all of you, new generation. Neither I nor the majority of people believe the current government. I don’t regard the current oppressions and arrests of journalists as a policy of the government. I feel that acts done by some people from the governmental body amount to harming the fourth pillar. An idea comes to our unconscious mind that we would face a similar case like the charge against 17 editors from the Eleven Media Group.
U Khaing Maung Yi ( MP from Lower House Parliament)
“Currently, media persons are facing the charges by the government. The information ministry charges against 17 editors from the Eleven Media Group at a time when the election is drawing near. It can be said that we have seen a horrible event in the history of news media as well as the current government. I am an official from the media committee of parliament. Today, I attend this ceremony on behalf of the chairperson of the committee. The government arrests journalists and gives heavy sentences to them. And the journalists were charged with other sections, but not with the media law. We send a message to the President through parliament to give the relaxations for them. But nothing has happened. But now new cases emerge. It amounts to leading to a confrontation. What I want to mean is that the government’s acts would amount to making a challenge to media. The new government should try to get a good reputation and leave a goodwill at a time when the current government handovers its power to the next government. But on the contrary, the government restricts and oppresses media. It amounts to creating problems. Media persons have accused the government of such oppressions. Does the government really oppress journalists as the media said? Our representatives are duty-bound to steer the government. For that, we find out the sectors to be steered and have to observe whether or not the government really oppresses journalists as media said. We are very familiar with the media. Our committee found out the government’s arrests, sentences of and charges against journalists while observing the cases. They face other sections of laws. A media law is drawn to give a protection to journalists. In addition, how can the bylaws protect media? A confrontation between the government and media would never be settled as long as the government oppresses media whatever the bylaws say. I think soon there may be a big conflict due to the current confrontation. In fact, this is not a good prospect. It is undeniable that the government’s oppressions against the media have intensified at a time when the election is approaching. We will have to raise a question that why does the government do it? And which is the government’s purpose? The term of the current parliament is going to come to an end. We would urge the government to deal with this issue if the parliament has enough time to discuss it. The current representatives are still incumbent even after the term of parliament has terminated and before the next parliament is put in place. We can still act in our capacity as representatives. Now we will monitor how the government would deal with it during a few days. We will continue doing it in our capacity if we don’t get the things we want.
Aye Thar Aung (CEC member of the Arakan National Party)
“To inform and educate people is the duty of media. And the media have the right to point out and criticize any erroneous acts done by the government, politicians and political leaders, which may cause a loss to people. Only then, would the democracy system flourish. I am very surprised at the government’s charges against media which reported the news people. The government charges and punishes media persons despite democratic reforms. According to the current briefing, a total of 47 journalists faced charges. Media persons are likely to face similar conditions. Journalists should not feel disappointed with this condition. And journalists should make continued efforts to help support the country’s reform through the correct news coverage.
Phyoe Min Thein (NLD Lower House MP)
“I see two opinions on this issue. One is a question what kind of policy the government is setting dealing with the media since the judiciary is charging and threatening the media. Such kind charging against it is unreasonable. In fact, the media and the other three pillars should cooperate for the country. Another one is the Interim Press Council should act as mediator while the media is being charged in order to prevent bad consequences. Regarding with the case, we are going to do what we should do.”
Mya Aye (88 Peace and Open Society)
“I would like to say to look clearly what is happening during this era rather than we are saying it is doubtful. We have refused that the country is transforming into democratic state that many people believed. We told that we have not enjoyed the genuine democracy yet. Why we are attending this briefing is we want to show that we are standing together with the media for the media freedom. What I want to tell you all including the journalists is beware that we are not getting transition. It’s just political liberalization. If we are wrong deciding what kind of political stage we are in, it would be trouble.
Khin San Hlaing (NLD Lower House MP)
“There should be negotiation because they (the government) itself have told that the media is the fourth pillar of the country. Then, they should not suppress the media that much. The media should be protected by the law. To abridge, we are very concerned with our country.”
Ma Thida (Sangyoung) – Chairperson of PEN Myanmar
“The freedom of expression is very important. The media freedom is crucial for the country’s development. It should be noted that if the state-owned media attacks and suppresses the private media instead protecting the latter for the sake of transition, it is not good for the country. What the government should do is promoting right to information of citizens; then the public can see clearly about either the government or the media. If the government is continuing the propaganda or suppressing the private media, it is heading to the public blindness. The final result would be the government won’t get the public cooperation or belief. We (PEN Myanmar) know that we have to watch closely this issue.”
Wai Phyo (Chief Editor) The Daily Eleven
“…… We have published that news on March 21. The last trial before publishing that news was March 19. For our newspaper, we never did hastily in printing news if we have trial today and publish the next day. …….. Whenever we ask Kyaw Soe over, he replied that the Ministry had bought printing machine but he didn’t know the exact price. But on March 5th trial, his answer has changed. On that day court hearing, when lawyer Kyaw Soe Moe representing Nay Htun Naing asked Kyaw Soe, he replied that it was true that the Ministry bought a printing machine worth Euro 700,000. I will exactly say what he has answered. Before buying the printing machine that won tender, we also bought a machine in 2009 with Euro 700,000. Apart from these facts, Kyaw Soe has replied more. He answered that the machines were bought with taxes from the public. If there is something wrong, public finance can be lost. In order to avoid that deed, the fourth pillar that is the media has the right to criticize and highlight these kinds of things. He gave that answer on March 5 court hearing. Although we have these testimonies, we never print these testimonies from March 5 to March 19 court hearing. On March 19, plaintiff was first put on trial. The plaintiff (1) was Director (Admin) Win Zaw Htay of News and Periodical Enterprise of the Ministry of Information. On that day, lawyer Kyi Myint questioned him on the machine worth Euro 700, 000. Earlier, he said that he has no idea what Kyaw Soe has answered. Upon asking him again and showing that Kyaw Soe has answered on March 5, Win Zaw Htat said yes. After asking two times on March 5 and March 19, plaintiff and plaintiff witness’s legal testimonies, we have to publish that news.
Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin (Yangon Region MP)
I’m really surprised as there are 17 people in a case. When I looked at the case title, it was written as contempt of court, it made me to remember the constitution. In 2008 constitution, it is already stated that everyone has the right to express freely. It is basic human right. But, suing even to 17 people is too much and it shouldn’t be. Because, the election is only 6 months away and international society is watching Myanmar even just now. They are not monitoring only on the Election Day. They are monitoring whether there are opportunities for free and fair election. Ordinary people and organizations monitor only on that Election Day. At a time when the international societies are watching, government is doing inappropriate acts and it ruins the country’s dignity. Especially, they won’t think our country’s election be a free and fair one. I would like to request to the government because their deeds will be a milestone in Myanmar’s history. It doesn’t want it to be a bad legacy. I would like to urge to the government to leave a good history.
Ko Myay Hmon lwin (Nga doh sarpay)
In the Democratic government administration, the Ministry of Information is a remarkable one in file a law suit. When observing the Ministries, no Ministries have that kind of law suit. In the previous government, there were many cases of sentencing writers, journalists and editors. These cases were filed against by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Ministry of Information has never done such kind of thing. Now, the duty of Information is to monitor closely news and media and file against these men whether their deeds are against with law or not. Therefore, those working in the Ministry of Information and its Minister have to think about themselves.
Pho Phyu (Lawyer)
“I think the reporters should need to gather information with investigation methods. Actually people should know about the conditions, situations and circumstances originally. I suppose being informed the news originally is not meant to defame a person or an organization. In the case of such defamation and instability that confront over the trial scene, occurrence of trial data revealed that several judicial tilt, disturbance to judicial and kind of judicial decisions are not the kind of behaviors we see.
Sayar Thitsar Ni (Chairperson, Poet Union)
“Rather than being good individually, there are many organizations. Many attend this briefing. These organizations should cooperate and form an association. It would be more effective if literature and media rights protection committee is organized and carried out. Charging the media like this is an act of pressuring of the other side. What exposed were their side’s corruptions and defects. Only media can carry out for transparency. If these things are seen, their image might be tarnished during upcoming election. I think that’s why they are setting control and limits to prevent it.”
Academy Director Mg Myo Min (Yintwinphit)
“They were fighting with grudge and now, they become wicked. Since they are acting things unmatched with law, it is wrong that nothing is above the law. Likewise, it is wrong that they are practicing along with the constitution. It is also wrong that media freedom has given. I see that mistakes are made one after another.”
Academy Director Wyne
“There is something in our judicial system that I’ve known when I was young, that is, making big case into smaller, small case to disappear. Now, it becomes – making small case into bigger. This is like charging people that don’t get along with them with ‘loathing’ sections [of a law]. I think it is a deliberate act to waste people’s time in court and make them unhappy when they should be carrying out tasks for country’s development.
Director Kyaw Thu (Paungkuu Group)
“This shows that they dislike Eleven [Media] for highlighting information that will harm their businesses and power. It is obvious in this lawsuit against a group of people. We expect them to do this when the election is getting nearer. Now, what they can point out is that the government will have its dignity if it can hold a clean and fair election. We need to pressure the international [community] to allow the media to work freely and stop them from pressuring [the media].
U Gyaw Gun (Kachin Peace Network)
I believe it’s quite important for the current government to have right attitude towards the public. The government alone can’t carry out the reforms of the country. Various sectors are working together. There may be issues where [people] point out the mistakes or highlight the issues for the [country’s] interest. If the government is unable to accept them with patience and continue to act like the former military government, we will never reach the goal all of us – the public – want for the democratic reform. There are too many cases like this [lawsuits against media]. Does the government really want to reveal true news to the public? If they were to do this, it is suspicious whether they are carrying out good deeds. The government is mostly charging [the media] to protect their own interests.