Eleven Media journalists defiant after facing down incitement charges

YANGON – Three Eleven Media journalists who spent several weeks in detention after publishing an article critical of the Yangon Region government have said they will not apologise for their reporting.

The reporters were detained in October under section 505b, which forbids the publication of information that causes “fear or alarm” that may induce someone “to commit an offense against the state.”

The law carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Executive editors Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nayi Min and chief reporter Phyo Wai Win were released last month after officials withdrew the case but asked them to apologise for publishing “incorrect information”.

“We won’t apologise as they ask because we didn’t write the article based on false information,” said Kyaw Zaw Lin after a meeting with the Myanmar Press Council on December 3.

The article was based on a discussion in Yangon Region parliament, he added, so the government should “look for an answer together with the representatives of the Hluttaw and the Office of the Auditor General.”

The piece, published on October 8, raised questions about the regional government’s financial management and business dealings.

The article criticised the regional transport minister, Nilar Kyaw, after she told parliament that she did not know who had borrowed money to buy a fleet of school buses when questioned by an MP.

It also questioned why some 640,000 shares it said were bought with public money to invest in a public-private company, Yangon Metropolitan Development Public, incorporated in last March, were held under the private name of the regional finance minister, Myint Thaung, instead of under his official title.

The regional government dropped the case after President Win Myint issued a directive calling on them to try to resolve the complaint through the Myanmar Press Council.

Yangon’s Chief Minister, Phyo Min Thein, told a press conference attended largely by state media early last month that the regional government would continue legal action against the journalists if the negotiations were unsuccessful.

Myanmar Press Council chair Ohn Kyaing said he believes that the council can mediate the dispute.

Ohn Kyaing said: “We will keep going until both parties are satisfied. It would be different if we were unable to negotiate, but I think we can.”

(Editing by Joshua Carroll)

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