Swe Win receiving an award from Information Minister Pe Myint in 2016. Photo: MOI
A prominent Myanmar journalist was detained as he tried to leave the country after an ultra-nationalist group filed a suit against him, a colleague said Sunday.
Swe Win, the editor of Myanmar Now, was detained by police at Yangon airport on Sunday evening as he tried to fly to Bangkok.
“I got contact with Swe Win around 6:30pm and he told me on the phone that he had been arrested at the airport and was now at the police station,” his colleague Htet Khaung Lin told AFP.
He added that Swe Lin was being held over a complaint filed by a member of the ultra-nationalist Ma Ba Tha movement over articles he had written about its leader, the firebrand monk Wirathu.
Another colleague told Frontier that Swe Win believes he will be transferred to Mandalay’s Obo Prison today.
The broadly worded law under which Swe Win is being held — Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act — bans uploading false or insulting information and has been frequently used against journalists both by the state and in private cases.
Police at Mingladon township, where Swe Win was taken, did not respond to requests for comment.
Many had hoped press freedoms would flourish under the new civilian government of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi but criminal and civil cases against journalists, cartoonists and satirists have instead increased.
Last month three journalists were detained by the military after they spoke to members of an armed rebel group. Suu Kyi’s government later defended the detentions and the trio remain in jail awaiting trial.
Ma Ba Tha are a small but vocal ultra-nationalist group who often rail against Myanmar’s beleaguered Muslim community.
The country’s top religious body has ordered them to disband but that move has done little to blunt their movement.
In March, Kyaw Myo Shwe, a Ma Ba Tha supporter, filed a case against Swe Win over a Facebook post in which he suggested that Wirathu should be expelled from the monkhood for lauding the murder of NLD legal advisor Ko Ni. He then told media that he would be withdrawing the suit, only to ultimately backtrack again and state that he would be going forward with the case.
A former anti-junta activist, Swe Win spent several years as a political prisoner in the 1990s.
Last year, he was honored by the president’s office for his reporting on the years-long abuse suffered by two domestic maids in downtown Yangon.
If Swe Win’s arrest on Sunday is related to Kyaw Myo Shwe’s suit, it is unclear why police did not act until now.
(c) 2017 Coconuts Yangon