Saturday, August 19, 2017

Journalist charged six months after press freedom protest

A senior editor at Thamaga weekly said yesterday she had been charged by police for her involvement in an unauthorised rally calling for freedom of expression held in Yangon more than six months ago.

Ma Shwe Hmone (centre) takes part in a protest in Yangon last year. (Wa Lone/The Myanmar Times)Ma Shwe Hmone (centre) takes part in a protest in Yangon last year. (Wa Lone/The Myanmar Times)

Ma Shwe Hmone said she had been ordered to report to Kyauktada township police station on May 16 to face charges under the peaceful protest law.

“I don’t know why they ordered me. That event was more than six months ago from now. But I’ll face the situation and charges,” she told The Myanmar Times.

Journalists and activists held a rally led by Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN) near Sule Pagoda in central Yangon last November 2 to defend freedom of expression. The event marked the “International Day to End Impunity”, a movement set up to commemorate the massacre by gunmen of 57 people, including 32 reporters and media workers, in the Philippines in November 2009.

Ma Shwe Hmone had been a senior reporter for Myanmar Thandawsint and moved to Thamaga as chief of staff. She is also an executive committee member of the MJN and a director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute.

Explaining the delay in bringing charges, Captain Win Tin of Kyauktada police station said, “We were busy at that time. And we were taking time to get her information such as her address and so on. We got hers just recently. So we can inform her now.”

MJN members and activists had been granted permission by police to hold the rally but not in a public location downtown.

“One activist from Generation Wave and I asked the police for permission. So I think they targeted me although there were many journalists attending,” Ma Shwe Hmone added.

MJN secretary U Myint Kyaw told The Myanmar Times that he was responsible for the rally and he could not understand why the authorities pressed charges after six months.

Twelve media workers are behind bars in Myanmar amid concerns that the government is backtracking on reforms. A chief editor and a senior reporter of The Myanmar Post are expected to be freed today after serving a two-month sentence with hard labour for defaming military members of parliament.