Myanmar convicts two journalists on defamation charges

New York, March 19, 2015–Two journalists in Myanmar were convicted of defamation on Wednesday and sentenced to two months in jail, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the convictions and calls on authorities in Myanmar to reverse the sentences on appeal.

Than Htaik Thu, an editor for the weekly Myanmar Post, and Hsan Moe Tun, a reporter for the paper, were charged in February 2014 following a defamation complaint filed by a military lawmaker, according to news reports. Thaw Naing, the top editor for The Myanmar Post, said that the individual said he had been misquoted in a January 2014 article about parliament sharing seats between civilians and military representatives, the reports said. Thaw Naing said the newspaper stood by the story.

The journalists plan to appeal the conviction, news reports said.

“The sentencing of Than Htaik Thu and Hsan Moe Tun marks a further acceleration in the Myanmar government’s unraveling of the advances first made when the military nominally relinquished its hold on the country’s political life,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We call on authorities to reverse these convictions on appeal and to set about reforming the country’s outdated criminal defamation laws.”

Rather than reforming draconian and outdated laws that curb press freedom, authorities in Myanmar are using the laws to threaten, suppress, and imprison journalists. In 2013, Ma Khine, a reporter with the Eleven Media Group, was sentenced to three months in prison on charges of defamation, trespassing, and using “abusive language,” according to news reports. CPJ documented at least 10 journalists imprisoned in the country when the organization conducted its annual prison census on December 1. Many others face trial. The number of journalists imprisoned in the country rose steadily after 14 were released in 2012 as part of a broader amnesty for political prisoners.

  • For more data and analysis on Myanmar, visit CPJ’s Myanmar page here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This news alert has been corrected in the final paragraph to reflect that Ma Khine was sentenced to three months in prison in 2013, not 2014 as previously stated.