Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Australian fights to keep Myanmar newspaper open

PUBLISHER Ross Dunkley faces court in a case observers say is aimed at forcing the Australian to relinquish control of the Myanmar Times newspaper.

Mr Dunkley, 55, is also facing a lawsuit brought by the wife of the paper's main Burmese shareholder, Tin Tun Oo, for allegedly assaulting her son-in-law in an altercation at the newspaper's offices in January. In turn, Mr Dunkley has filed a countersuit against the woman, Khin Moe Moe.

Dr Tin Tun Oo holds a 51 per cent stake in the parent company, Myanmar Consolidated Media.

The remaining 49 per cent is held by Mr Dunkley and associates, led by Australian resources businessman Bill Clough, who has also backed Mr Dunkley's investment in the Cambodia-based Phnom Penh Post.

Mr Dunkley told AAP the struggle over control of the Myanmar Times was ongoing and linked to Dr Tin Tun Oo's shareholding.

"The issue mostly now is about the sale of TTO's (Dr Tin Tun Oo) share in the business and his relinquishment of any lingering role at the company," Mr Dunkley said.

Dr Tin Tun Oo has alleged MCM owes him $US100,000 ($104,042) in an outstanding loan and his case, set for October 23, threatens to close the paper.

"I can't imagine that he would succeed in his attempt to wind up the company. We are profitable and can pay any debt as and when it arises," Mr Dunkley said.

New media reform laws have triggered investment in the sector. More than 20 publishers were granted daily newspaper licences earlier this year.

Mr Dunkley had been hopeful of securing a daily newspaper licence. But when the licences were issued in April, the Myanmar Times was not granted one.

In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine published in May, Mr Dunkley said the business was at risk because the government had not granted the Myanmar Times a daily newspaper licence.

"People are watching what will happen with me very closely," he told the magazine.

Mr Dunkley's latest legal challenges follow cases in 2011, when he was arrested on immigration violations and an alleged assault on a Myanmar woman and drug-related charges. After he spent more than 40 days in the notorious Insein Prison, he was fined $US100 and released from prison with time served.

A Dunkley supporter told AAP it was the Australian publisher's "long-held ambition to buy out Tin Tun Oo's shares" and free himself from a business relationship considered acrimonious.

But a Myanmar media insider was less optimistic over Mr Dunkley's future. "They will take him out, absolutely for sure; it just will take time," the insider said.

source: The Australian
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