European Interest

Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar under secrecy law

Flickr/Mathias Eick, EU/ECHO/CC BY-ND 2.0
According to the United Nations, the army is likely guilty of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority.

Two Reuters journalists were remanded in custody for another fortnight by a Myanmar court on December 27. They were arrested under a secrecy law that carries up to 14 years in jail.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, are Myanmar nationals who had been reporting for the global news agency on a military-led crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. They were arrested on December 12 after being invited to meet police for dinner on the outskirts of Yangon.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the two reporters have yet to be charged by a court.

According to the United Nations, the army is likely guilty of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority, some 655,000 of whom have fled the country since the military launched a crackdown on Rohingya rebels in late August.

However, Myanmar has denied the allegation and has tightly controlled media and UN access to the conflict area.

Also, Myanmar officials have refused to comment on where the Reuters journalists were being detained or when they would be released.

On December 27, the journalists appeared in public for the first time in a court on the outskirts of Yangon, where they were embraced by tearful relatives who have been denied any contact with the two men.

Judge Ohn Myint extended their remand period until January 10, telling the court “the interrogation is still ongoing”.

Reuters has denied any wrong-doing on behalf of their reporters, defending their right to report on an issue of global significance.

“These journalists were arrested while they were doing their jobs,” Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer for the Reuters journalists, said outside the court house.

“It’s likely to shut down the voices of accused as they are being held for long time… We are worried about that,” he added.

In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that at least 11 journalists have been arrested in Myanmar in 2017, including two foreign correspondents and a local reporter working for Turkish state broadcaster TRT.

The three correspondents and their driver were sentenced to two months in prison for flying a drone close to Myanmar’s parliament building in October.

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