YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's military on Wednesday, May 17, sued two local journalists using a controversial censorship law over an article they wrote criticising the top brass as fears grow over curbs on press freedom.
The military retains huge political and economic influence in Myanmar and has a long track record of pursuing critics, both during the crippling decades of junta rule and since the generals partially ceded power to civilians.
The latest story to anger the military, published in The Voice newspaper in late March, took aim at a propaganda film called "Pyi Daung Su Thit Sar" (Faithful to the Union) lauding the army's victories over armed ethnic groups.
The article took aim at senior leaders for sitting around holding peace talks and drinking wine while low-rank soldiers are being killed.
Kyaw Swa Naing, who wrote the story under a pen name, said he would report to the police on Thursday over the case brought under the country's increasingly used and broadly worded telecommunications law which forbids "defaming or disturbing" people online.
"I am determined myself that I won't apologize to them for my article," Kyaw Swa Naing, who is being sued along with the paper's editor, told the Agence France-Presse.
"There is fighting everywhere and its normally lower-rank soldiers who end up dead while the leaders sit behind their desks."
Myint Kyaw from the Myanmar Press Council, a media arbitration panel, said the military viewed the article as creating "divisions" between the high and low ranking soldiers.
The case also comes at a time of heightened tensions between the government and Myanmar's military, which still holds key levers of power after Suu Kyi's NLD party won the first free elections in generations in 2015.
Earlier this month one of her senior aides accused the military of spreading rumours to destabilise the NLD, bringing an angry response from the army in the most public sign yet of simmering discontent between the two.
Hopes had been high that the party, many of whose MPs spent decades in jail for speaking their minds under Myanmar's former junta, would usher in a new era of free speech.
But defamation prosecutions have soared since they took power in March 2016, with social media satirists, activists and journalists targeted. – Rappler.com