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Two editors from the Myanmar Herald news publication were found guilty of defamation and fined by a court in Naypyidaw on Tuesday.
At their 20th hearing in the trial, the journal’s chief editor Kyaw Swar Win and former deputy-chief editor Ant Khaung Min were sentenced by the Pobbathiri township court to each pay a fine of one million kyat (US$833) or serve six months in prison. The court acquitted nine other Herald staff members also standing trial, including deputy-editor Aung Kyaw Min.
Kyaw Swar Win and Ant Khaung Min agreed to pay the fine.
The charges relate to an interview with political theorist Myo Yan Naung Thein, published in August last year, who criticised President Thein Sein of “spouting gibberish, irrational, cheap and inconsistent words” that were “completely nonsensical, absurd and insane”.
The 11 media workers were sued in November by the Ministry of Information under Article 25(b) of the Media Law, which mandates a maximum one million kyat fine for slandering an individual or organisation. The Ministry of Information claimed the comments “hurt the dignity and rights of the state leader [President Thein Sein]”.
The group’s defence lawyer, Zaw Linn, said the nine acquitted Herald staffers should never have been charged in the first place, and they had to spend a lot of time and money attending court hearings in Naypyidaw.
“The nine staff members, from the beginning to the end of the trial, had to frequently travel to [Naypyidaw] from Rangoon, which cost them expenses for travel, accommodation and food. I think the Ministry of Information should have considered this when they decided to press charges,” said Zaw Linn.
“The judge handed a guilty verdict to the two editors as he believed they deserved it. The punishment was only a fine but in my opinion it is still unfitting.”
Deputy-chief editor San Win Tun, managing editors Aung Tun Lin and Aung Ko, executive editor Chit Ko Ko Thaw, editors Khin Maung Linn and Shein Wai Naung, distribution manager Myint Zaw, and distributor Zeyar Moe were all acquitted.
READ BACKGROUND: MOI serves herald with summons