First trial begins for Eleven Media Group versus Yangon Region Government – The first hearing of the case involving Eleven Media Group’s CEO Than Htut Aung and Chief Editor Wai Phyo versus the Yangon regional government took place at the Tamwe Township court on November 25.
The first ever trial in the case of Eleven Media Group’s (EMG’s) CEO Dr Than Htut Aung and Chief Editor Wai Phyo versus the Yangon Region Government began on November 25 at the Tamwe Township court.
The duo, detained without being allowed bail under section 66(d), submitted an appeal for bail through lawyers: Kyee Myint, Kyaw Lin, Soe Tint Yi, Kyaw Soe Moe and Moe Hein.
The presiding judge Kay Thi Hlaing will decide whether the bail will be allowed on November 30.
The lawyers argued that while the defendants were not allowed bail, there was nowhere in the law that explicitly stated that bail cannot be granted, especially since it was for health reasons.
They added that EMG had also paid over 2,200 million kyat in taxes as well as that both CEO and the chief editor have won numerous prestigious journalism awards, making them honourable citizens in good standing with the law.
They stated that since the maximum sentence is three years, it is supported by other laws to allow bail, and that the defendants are ready to provide any bail amount requested by the court.
“Today I have the authority to speak and the number one thing today is that this is the first trial and charges are under 66(d). We submitted with plenty of evidence that 66(d), in fact, allows bail. Maung Maung Nyan Win from Pyay was allowed bail from 66(d) due to section 499 of the penal code. It is the same for the owner of Kawe Journal in Bago. When it comes to Dr Than Htut Aung, he is someone who has already been allowed absence from trials by the Pobbathiri court for health reasons and the same should be done here. We also submitted the doctor’s reports. The court will decide on it on November 30 and how the case will then proceed depending on the plaintiff’s side. This is all I can say today,” said lawyer Kyee Myint.
CEO Than Htut Aung and Chief Editor Wai Phyo were charged under section 66 (d) of Telecommunications Law by Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein over an editorial article ‘A year after the Nov 8 polls’ written by the CEO at the Tamwe Township Police Station on November 9.
On November 5, the article was featured on Asia News Network, a website managed by the 22 media outlets from 21 countries, including Myanmar. The article was thereafter featured again on The Daily Eleven Newspaper issued on November 6.
Also mentioned in the article, though not completely explicit, was an accusation of corruption over an expensive Patek Phillippe watch.
Regarding the November 6 article, the Yangon Region Government Committee sent a letter on November 7 in response to two questions. The letter sought a clarification regarding the published article.
In the afternoon of November 9, the Yangon Region Government Committee held a press conference regarding the watch in question and stated that he will be suing.
Later, police from the Tamwe Police Station arrived at the Office of Eleven Media Group at the night of November 9 and presented a summon.
The Yangon Region Government Committee not only took legal action against EMG’s article but also registered a complaint with the Myanmar Press Council. However, the Council was unable to intervene, as the lawsuit that was filed snagged with section 37 of the Media law.
The Myanmar Press Council replied on November 10 that only after the current lawsuit is cancelled, it can take action.
Chief Editor Wai Phyo was awarded the 2011 Press Freedom Prize by the Reporters without Borders (RSF).
CEO Than Htut Aug was awarded the 2013 Golden Pen award from WAN-IFRA, an international organisation based in Paris, France, comprising newspaper owners and distributers across the globe.
Ever since both the top chiefs of EMG were detained, organisations, such as the WAN-IFRA, RSF, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists and Asia News Network have requested dropping all charges filed against CEO Than Htut Aung and Chief Editor Wai Phyo.