Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reporters press for pay from shuttered paper

Reporters and editors from the now defunct Mandalay-based daily newspaper Mandalay Ahlin are seeking nearly K26 million in fees and damages which they believe they are owed.

A man holds up the last issue of the Mandalay Ahlin newspaper. Photo: Maung Zaw / The Myanmar TimesA man holds up the last issue of the Mandalay Ahlin newspaper. Photo: Maung Zaw / The Myanmar Times

At a press conference in Mandalay on October 7, the 23 disgruntled employees announced that they would take legal action against the paper’s owners if they did not receive payment soon.

“We ask for our rights. The owners’ representative has given us no word on the money we are owed and didn’t answer our questions. That is why we are holding this press conference – so that they might respond to us,” said Ma Thet Su Aung, who was a deputy chief reporter at the paper.

“We will take legal action against the paper’s owner if there is no answer shortly after this press conference,” she added.

The Mandalay Ahlin was launched on February 17, 2015 and at its peak, sold 10,000 copies per day. It was published by The Messenger Media, a company owned by U Zaw Min Aye, son of former Union Election Commission chair U Tin Aye.

In July this year, the paper stopped publishing due to financial difficulties caused by low advertising revenue.

The compensation amount sought by the newspaper’s former employees is made up of unpaid fees and salaries, as well as damages for breach of contract.

“We are only employees asking for our rights. We want [the owners] to deal with the situation. We do not want to take legal action but we will continue to take legal action if the owner’s representatives will not reply,” said editor U Thant Zin Oo.

The paper’s former editor also said that the employees had been told by the owner’s lawyer not to hold a press conference and that the lawyer did not address the employees’ claims.

The paper’s editors and reporters said they have submitted complaints to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and the Myanmar Press Council in order to resolve or mediate their dispute. They also plan to file a complaint with the Ministry of Information.

“Our 20-page newspaper ran every day and, apart from medical leave, we didn’t even take any off days. We tried our best to run the newspaper and now we just want to solve this problem peacefully,” Ko Zaw Naung Lin, another editor at Mandalay Ah­lin said during a separate, simultaneous press conference held in Yangon on October 7.

He added that the newspaper’s former staff have been waiting for more than three months for a response from the former owner, and have yet to even receive a confirmation about their request for financial settlement.

When approached for comment by The Myanmar Times, the head of administration for the Mandalay Ahlin, U Thein Win, said he had not yet received any instructions on the matter.

Additional reporting by Shoon Naing, translation by Win Thaw Tar and Zar Zar Soe