Myanmar Military Files Nearly 50 Lawsuits Against Critics in Three Years, Watchdog Group Says

Myanmar’s highly effective navy has filed almost 50 lawsuits circumstances towards crucial journalists, people, and organizations it has accused of defamation in the course of the civilian-led authorities’s almost 4 years in workplace, a freedom of expression advocacy group mentioned Tuesday.

The Yangon-based youth-led group Athan, which suggests “voice” in Burmese, mentioned that navy officers filed 47 authorized circumstances in the course of the 45 months that de facto chief Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nationwide League for Democracy (NLD) has been in energy.

About 65 p.c of the circumstances had been filed by navy officers, whereas seven others had been filed by middlemen, and a dozen extra had been filed by the Yangon Regional Navy Command, in keeping with Athan.

The lawsuits embody 18 circumstances filed underneath the Telecommunications Regulation, 11 underneath Part 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, seven underneath Part 505(b), 4 underneath Part 500, two underneath the Illegal Associations Act, two underneath the Nationwide Safety Act, two underneath the Media Regulation, and one underneath Part 200, the group mentioned.

Amongst 96 individuals accused, 51 are activists, 19 are civilians, 14 are journalists, 5 are non secular leaders, 4 are artists, and three are members of political events.

“In a lot of the circumstances, the accused are activists,” Athan researcher Ye Wai Phyo Aung instructed RFA’s Myanmar Service. “The navy’s lawsuits largely attempt to restrict the free speech.”

“The prosecution of journalists by the navy is just not new,” he added. “They’ve filed many lawsuits since 2006. In 2019, they filed many lawsuits towards journalists for overlaying the Rakhine difficulty.”

“In our observations, the navy has change into ultrasensitive to any criticism towards it as it’s experiencing a political disaster and is responding to critics by submitting lawsuits towards them,” Ye Wai Phyo Aung mentioned.

Myanmar forces have come underneath heavy hearth by the worldwide group for his or her marketing campaign of violence towards Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state in 2017. The crackdown, which included indiscriminate killings, mass rape, torture and village burnings, left hundreds useless and drove greater than 740,000 members of the minority group in another country.

A couple of nations, together with america, have imposed focused sanctions on military commanders deemed chargeable for the slaughter, whereas different nations have filed lawsuits on genocide fees towards Myanmar for alleged state-sanctioned violence towards the Rohingya.

‘Illiberal’ on Rakhine difficulty

The navy has additionally filed lawsuits towards those that have revealed information on war-torn Rakhine state, criticized the armed forces, and referred to as for reform of the present structure which enshrines the navy’s political energy, Ye Wai Phyo Aung mentioned.

“Particularly in 2019, there have been events like ICJ [International Court of Justice] lawsuit and rising calls to hurry up constitutional amendments,” he mentioned.

When Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi appeared earlier than judges throughout an ICJ listening to in December, she denied that the violence meted out towards Rohingya was carried out with genocidal intent and insisted it was a part of a navy clearing operation to rid the area of Muslim insurgents.

Myanmar additionally faces authorized motion over atrocities towards the Rohingya on the Worldwide Legal Courtroom and in an Argentine court docket.

“We discover that the navy is illiberal in relation to the Rakhine difficulty,” mentioned Ye Wai Phyo Aung. “They don’t need the general public to be taught the reality about what occurred on the bottom in Rakhine state.”

“They don’t prefer it that the free press is publishing the up-to-date information, so that they have prosecuted a bunch of reports media for reporting on Rakhine state,” he mentioned, noting navy lawsuits filed towards RFA, the web journal The Irrawaddy, and the Rakhine-based Improvement Media Group (DMG) information service.

“Along with the prosecutions, they’ve additionally made verbal and bodily threats,” he mentioned.

Myanmar navy spokesman Brigadier Common Zaw Min Tun mentioned the lawsuits had been filed in response to unwarranted swipes on the armed forces.

“Since we’re an establishment, we will certainly should prosecute the unfair criticism and distortions towards us,” he instructed RFA.

“We aren’t prosecuting all of the information media,” he mentioned. “Our lawsuits primarily based on the acts of the accused. We solely prosecute the events who’re intentionally defame us to wreck our popularity.”

Zaw Min Tun famous that authorities officers and lawmakers have filed extra defamation lawsuits than has the navy.

Two-year-old Athan publishes periodic experiences on the state of media freedom in Myanmar underneath the NLD that time to a rising variety of threats to freedom of expression because the get together got here to energy after successful landslide elections in 2015.

Reported by Nayrein Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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