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Myanmar journalist in hot water over monk comments

News agency editor faces defamation charge for criticizing monk's praise of top Muslim attorney's assassination

Myanmar journalist in hot water over monk comments

Controversial Myanmar monk Wirathu (center) attends a celebration of the Ma Ba Tha organization in Mandalay in this file photo. (Photo by Phyo Mg Mg/AFP)

March 14, 2017

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A prominent Myanmar journalist is facing a defamation case, police said, after he took to Facebook late last month to criticize a nationalist Buddhist monk who praised the January assassination of one of the nation's leading Muslim attorneys.

Kyaw Myo Shwe, a follower of Ma Ba Tha Buddhist nationalist movement vice chairman Wirathu, lodged the complaint against Swe Win, chief editor of Myanmar Now news agency, under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, Radio free Asia reported, citing Kyaw Thu, commander of the No. 7 Police Station in Mandalay.

"Kyaw Myo Shwe said Swe Win, who is the owner of the Facebook account 'Ba Kaung,' had defamed U Wirathu with his writings," Kyaw Thu told reporters, using a local honorific to refer to the nationalist monk.

"Wirathu asked for an apology within seven days, but Swe Win didn't comply by the deadline, so they opened a case against him."

The maximum sentence for online defamation under Article 66(d) of Myanmar's Telecommunications Law is three years in prison.

On Feb. 28, Swe Win used his Facebook account to slam Wirathu for praising the brutal murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and critic of Myanmar's powerful military.

In a post, the reporter said Wirathu had "committed a major violation of parajika [the Buddhist monk code]" by doing so.

Ko Ni was shot dead as he held his grandson on Jan. 29 outside Yangon airport in a murder that shocked the country. A taxi driver, Ne Win, was also killed trying to stop the gunman, who authorities said was hired by a former military officer who is on the run.

Wirathu had hailed the men accused of planning Ko Ni's assassination as defenders of Myanmar's race and religion.

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