Sunday, 17 November 2019

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Mining Ministry drops defamation case against The Voice

A defamation case by Myanmar's mining ministry against The Voice Weekly for reporting graft allegations was dropped Thursday, in the latest sign of easing pressure on the nation's long-muzzled media.

Latpadaung copper mine (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)
 Latpadaung copper mine (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)
A Yangon court agreed to withdraw charges against The Voice at the ministry's request, following mediation by a recently-formed press council, according to Judge Khin Thant Zin.

In an article last year The Voice reported a corruption probe linking the ministry to a Chinese co-owned copper mine, which has seen a series of protests over allegations of land-grabbing and environmental damage.

Under the country's Printing Act 1962, both individuals and organizations can sue publications for defamation, in a nation where for decades the judiciary acted as a tool of the junta and is still seen as lacking independence.

Kyaw Min Swe, The Voice's chief editor, welcomed the withdrawal as a "win-win" for both parties but vowed to continue "to speak out and write what we have to".

He also warned "it was not good to have a government ministry and a media organisation in such a dispute" as Myanmar's widely-praised reforms take root.

The new government that replaced the military regime in 2011 has introduced wide reforms, including the welcoming of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party into mainstream politics and efforts to unshackle the media.

In August the regime announced the end of pre-publication censorship, previously applied to everything from newspapers to song lyrics and even fairy tales.

The country set up the interim press council to draft a new media law and has also announced it will allow private newspapers to publish daily from April 1, ending a decades-old ban.

In response to the "dramatic changes", Myanmar rose to 151st out of 179 in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index, an improvement of 18 places, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday.

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