The Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN) has denounced as a threat to press freedom the Burmese military’s move to sue the 7Day Daily newspaper for publishing a remark by former army general and Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann.
The Burmese military on 25 June filed a lawsuit against the 7Day Daily’s editor and a reporter for publishing an article the day before, which contained a comment by Shwe Mann about the Burmese armed forces that he had earlier posted on his Facebook page.
The military later dropped the lawsuit after the 7Day issued an apology in government newspapers.
The issue stems from a remark the former general posted saying that the military should work together with the government for the sake of the people.
An MJN statement dated on 30 June accused the military of attempting to muzzle the press from writing about the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces].
“While press freedom in Burma is better than in the past, we view the move [by the military] as a threat, to demoralise the press from independently reporting about the Tatmadaw, even when the facts presented are correct,” said the MJN statement.
The MJN said the 7Day Daily was forced to apologise although it clearly had not violated any media code of ethics.
Meanwhile, the Burmese chapter of the international writers’ association PEN International also released a statement suggesting the newspaper was directly quoting Shwe Mann, and therefore any lawsuit should have been directed against him, not the publication.
The PEN-Myanmar statement said the Burmese-language daily was forced to issue an apology, conceding the report as misleading when that was not the case, suggesting it had apologised simply to ensure it was not sued.
PEN-Myanmar called the military move an attempt to demean the press, and said it objects to any move to muzzle free press, and urged the government to protect media freedom in Burma.