Monday, 25 June, 2018

Myanmar charges two Reuters reporters under Official Secrets Act

Myanmar statement EXPLAINER-Two Reuters journalists due to make second Myanmar court appearance
Marlene Weaver | 12 January, 2018, 03:21

The U.S. embassy in Myanmar said it was "disappointed" by Wednesday's decision and called for the "immediate release" of the journalists - calls that were echoed by the U.S. State department.

In one of its firmest statements yet, the 28-nation bloc, which is a significant donor to Myanmar, said that the case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was an important test for the country's commitment to developing democracy after years of military rule. "We believe time is of the essence and we continue to call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe OO's prompt release".

If found guilty, they could be spend up to 14 years in prison.

Several non-governmental and journalist organisations have called the arrests an attack on the freedom of the press.

Clinton was US president for much of the 1990s when the United States pressed Myanmar's then military rulers to release democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi from years of house arrest.

Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar have been formally charged with violating the country's Official Secrets Act.

UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado (seen below), told journalists in Geneva that prior to August 25, UNICEF had been treating 4,800 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and that these children were no longer receiving the life-saving treatment. The reporters were invited to meet with police officials. She has made no public comment on the case of the two Reuters reporters.

His colleague Wa Lone said his wife was pregnant, adding: "I'm trying to be strong".

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In November, a Myanmar court sentenced a Malaysian and a Singaporean journalist, along with their two local guides, to two months imprisonment for violating the country's aviation law by attempting to fly a drone in front of the parliament building in Nay Pyi Taw.

"What with the lack of transparency, the failure to respect proper legal procedure and the fabrication of evidence, everything suggests that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being used by the authorities as scapegoats in order to deter overly curious reporters". "Please set them free", she said.

The government has denied that their arrests represent an attack on press freedom and Suu Kyi's spokesman has said the case would be handled according to the law.

Former US president Bill Clinton also weighed in on the issue. "Journalists and media outlets, in particular those who report on 'sensitive topics, ' are living with the constant fear of harassment, intimidation or arrest".

Government officials from some of the world's major nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as top United Nations officials, have called for the release of the reporters.

Authorities have blocked access to media seeking to cover the military crackdown in the north of Rakhine State.

Under the current government, at least 32 journalists have been charged, mostly under colonial-era laws, according to the local group We Support Journalists, the Associated Press reported. Both reporters have said they were not mistreated in custody, the report said.

Friends say Kyaw Soe Oo avoided becoming caught up in the tension between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims but the conflict drew him into journalism.

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