A defamation suit involving the Voice Weekly and a Burmese ministry will go to trial on October 5, after a court announced it accepted the charge on Thursday.
The Ministry of Mines sued the newspaper for publishing information the newspaper said came from the auditor-general’s office about financial transactions by the government ministry.
“The court has accepted the charge,” said chief editor Kyaw Min Swe. “The lawsuit between the government and The Voice journal harms the reform process and destroys the image of the government. It should be resolved as fast as it can.”
Burma’s 1962 press law is in the process of revision in Parliament. Information Minister Aung Kyi recently told another newspapers that the act would be repealed to bring the press laws in line with other countries in the region.
In August, the government announced the end of pre-publication censorship by government officials, which previously applied to everything from newspapers to song lyrics and even fairy tales, in what was seen as a key step to greater freedom of speech. However, other restrictive and punitive laws remain in place that act as restrictions on reporters and free speech.
The Voice's lawyer Thein Nyunt, who is also a lower house MP for the New National Democracy Party (NNDP), said the acceptance of the charge is a blow to press freedom and will tend to silence the news media.
“The lawsuit between the government and The Voice journal harms the reform process and destroys the image of the government,” he said.
The 1962 press law was used to send many publishers, editors and journalists – as well as activists – to jail during almost half a century of military rule that ended last year.