Myanmar Charges Reuters Reporters under Official Secrets Act

According to reports from The Guardian, two journalists from Reuters have been held by prosecutors in Myanmar on the charge of violating the State’s Official Secrets Act. The lawyers stated that the indictment entails a maximum of 14 years of imprisonment.

The two accused, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, covered the Rohingya Muslims crisis in the western state of Rakhine and reported for Reuters. They were detained on December 12, 2017, during their meeting with a group of police officers over dinner.  The police suspected them of causing security breaches by procuring undisclosed documents from the police. It was the same police officers who were in charge of Rakhine state where the security forces were condemned for human rights violation of the Rohingya Muslims. Their ill-treatment of the Rohingya’s is said resulted in the migration of 650,000 people to Bangladesh.

Than Zaw, the lawyer of the reporters stated that he pled for the immediate bail of his clients. However, the judge said that the request will be reviewed during the next hearing on January 23.  Than Zaw also drew attention to the lack of medical aid given to Wa Lone, who is suffering from a hernia through the course of his detention

Reports from BBC suggested that the government arrested the journalists for illegally possessing secret information with the objective of distributing it to international media. Protesting against this, an army of journalists clad in black, gathered outside the court on January 10th and disputed against the arrest of their colleagues.

In the backdrop of the Rohingya crisis, the civilian government of Myanmar under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate has been criticized by governments and media groups around the world. The press freedom of the country is questioned in the light of the threats issued to journalists.

Sources – Reuters, Arab News