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Myanmar Formally Charges Two Reuters Journalists

Myanmar Formally Charges Two Reuters Journalists

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.

Ko Wa Lone and his colleague Ko Kyaw Soe Oo have been detained by police since December 12 and are charged under Section 3 of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for allegedly acquiring information from police officers about the violence in northern Rakhine State illegally.

Under the country's Official Secrets Act, the men may face up to 14 years in prison.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said the "arrests and continued incarceration represent an egregious attack on press freedom - preventing them, and deterring other journalists, from reporting independently in Myanmar".

Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters reporters under archaic, colonial-era secrecy laws Wednesday as criticism grew over the restriction of press freedoms in the country under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

An added element of uncertainty as the trial moves forward is the status and location of two police officers whom the government says are also being charged under the Official Secrets Act, but who are listed as witnesses for the prosecution as well.

Suu Kyi won a 2015 election and formed Myanmar's first civilian government in more than half a century in early 2016, although she is barred by the constitution from becoming president.

Human rights groups have accused the police of entrapping the two Reuters journalists by giving them documents that were then deemed state secrets.

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




"None of the claims made by the authorities, in this case, seems to be credible", said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.

Their families have suggested the pair were set up, saying the arrests took place immediately after leaving the restaurant where they dined with the two policemen.

Family members of the journalists, who were present at the court, told a news conference late past year that police may have fabricated a case for their arrest.

Wednesday's hearing was their second court appearance since being arrested nearly one month ago.

It is a case that highlights growing concerns about press freedom in the country.

Government officials from some of the world's major nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as top U.N. officials, have called for the release of the journalists. "Journalists and media outlets, in particular those who report on 'sensitive topics, ' are living with the constant fear of harassment, intimidation or arrest".

"We therefore call on your government to provide the necessary legal protection for these two journalists, to ensure the full respect of their fundamental rights and to release them immediately", he said.

The government has blocked the coverage of the military crackdown in Rakhine. The reporters said they had not been mistreated in custody.

The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations but are denied citizenship, and branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.


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