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All remaining charges were officially withdrawn yesterday against The Voice Daily’s editor-in-chief Kyaw Min Swe and columnist British Ko Ko Maung, bringing to an end their four-month ordeal after being arrested for a satirical column that appeared in the newspaper lampooning Burma’s military.
Defence lawyer Khin Maung Myint confirmed that Bahan township court had now dropped charges under both the Media Law and the controversial 2013 Telecommunications Law, widely known as Article 66(d), which covers “online defamation” and has been regularly used by the military and the incumbent government, critics say, to silence opposition and muzzle the media.
“The Tatmadaw [Burmese military] has withdrawn both charges,” he said. “The case is now closed. This is the last day of court proceedings.”
Charges under Article 25(b) of the Media Law were dropped at the last hearing, while today saw the withdrawal of the final charge, Article 66(d), levelled at the editor.
Speaking outside the courthouse in Rangoon, The Voice Daily’s editor Kyaw Min Swe said, “It is a good sign that the Tatmadaw has withdrawn these charges, and we appreciate it even though the case was initiated due to a misunderstanding.”
The Voice Daily’s columnist British Ko Ko Maung also addressed reporters on Friday. It was his article that caused the furor. The offending column, headlined “Oath of the Nation of Bullets,” was published on 26 March and reads, in part, “When the number of soldiers of the lowest ranks killed in battle has reached a satisfactory point, the major leaders hold celebratory peace conferences from time to time. Only the soldiers on both sides of the frontline are shooting their butts off.”
“I appreciate that the plaintiff, Tatmadaw, withdrew these charges,” he said. “However, since I believe that the charges should not have been filed in the first place, I do not want to make any further comment.”
He added: “I was sued for writing satire. But I will continue writing satirical pieces in the future.”