Wai Phyo (2nd R), the detained chief editor of one of the news journals of Eleven Media Group, is escorted by a policeman in a courthouse in Yangon, Jan. 6, 2017.
A Myanmar court on Friday released the chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of the independent Eleven Media Group on bail of more than U.S. $37,000 each after the two were held for nearly two months on defamation charges, the defense lawyer in the case said.
Than Htut Aung, chief executive officer of Eleven Media Group, and Wai Phyo, chief editor of the Daily Eleven newspaper, were jailed on Nov. 11 over an editorial that accused Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon, of receiving a U.S. $100,000 watch from an unnamed drug tycoon who was later awarded a lucrative contract for a city transit project.
The editorial appeared in the Nov. 6 issue of Daily Eleven and was posted on Than Htut Aung’s Facebook page.
The two men were charged under a controversial article in Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law that prohibits use of the telecom network to defame people and carries a jail sentence of up to three years and a fine for those who violate it.
“They were released today on bail of 50 million kyats [U.S. $37,230] each,” said defense lawyer Kyi Myint.
Though Eleven Media Group issued a public apology for the editorial in December, Moe Hein, director of the Yangon government office, said on Friday that officials will not accept the apology and will proceed with the defamation case against the two men.
The two men were being held in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison where Than Htut Aung suffered a heart attack.
They had asked the Tamwe township court in east-central Yangon to release them on bail three times before Friday.
Their next court hearing will be held on Jan. 13.
Reported by Thant Sin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.