Myanmar Charges Reuters Journalists Under Official Secrets Act

Myanmar Charges Reuters Journalists Under Official Secrets Act

The NewsGuild of NY, which counts around 3,000 members in the state and is part of the 25,000-strong nationwide NewsGuild ― which represents many Reuters employees in the United States ― launched a campaign Thursday, called "Journalism Is Not a Crime", in support of the two men and calling for their release.

They are being investigated on suspicion of breaching the Official Secrets Act, a little-used law that dates from the days of British colonial rule. If convicted, the pair might face up to 14 years in prison.

"We have chose to provide the aid in response to the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to represent an worldwide message of support so that the repatriation can be carried out promptly", said Foreign Ministry official Shinobu Yamaguchi in a statement. "It will come out in the trial".

Police arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Yangon around 11:30 pm on December 12. Their families claimed the two were arrested immediately after meeting police sources for dinner, where they were handed the documents.

"I can only talk about [the classified documents] when they are in my hand", he added. Than Zaw Aung said the officers have been included on the witness list for the prosecution.

- The United States said it was "deeply disappointed" by Myanmar's decision to pursue charges under the Official Secrets Act against the two reporters.

The prosecutor objected to an application for bail, the reporters' lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said. We believe time is of the essence and we continue to call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's prompt release.

The clause, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, prohibits visiting places, capturing images or handling documents that "might be or is meant to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy".

The ministry of information has cited the police as saying they were "arrested for possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine state and security forces". Through state media, the NLD-controlled information ministry had laid the groundwork for reporters in the pay of overseas news agencies to be viewed as the equivalent of spies.

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Amnesty International said the men had "done absolutely nothing wrong".

"We didn't violate any media ethics". In a report, United Nations investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity. Prosecutors formally charged the journalists under the act in court on Wednesday.

Ever since the Rohingya refugee exodus began in late August, journalists have been systematically denied access to the region, an issue that RSF raised with Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in September.

In October, two foreign journalists, along with their fixer and driver, were prosecuted for flying a drone close to the national parliament. Myanmar journalist Ko Aung Naing Soe, Malaysian Mok Choy Lin and Lau Hon Meng, from Singapore, were on assignment for Turkish broadcaster TRT and jail for two months, alongside driver U Hla Tin, for violating the 1934 Aircraft Act. The sentence was later reduced to seven years, and they were released in a presidential amnesty in April 2016. Our colleagues should be allowed to return to their jobs reporting on events in Myanmar.

"Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested for doing their jobs and should be immediately released", said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights.

Myanmar's state-run media on Wednesday said authorities have started the land work to construct buildings to accommodate returned refugees from Bangladesh in northern Rakhine, where refugees will be temporarily placed after their citizenship is scrutinised.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and other government officials internationally have also called for the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

Asked about the NLD government's apparent refusal to support journalists, he said, "maybe they don't understand press freedom".

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