Trump admin. condemns Myanmar for jailing Reuters journalists

Marco Green
January 13, 2018

Myanmar authorities claimed the journalists violated the country's "Official Secrets Act" against espionage and the leaking of sensitive government information, mainly related to "Rakhine State and security forces".

In all cases, after protracted trials, charges were eventually dropped, indicating a pattern that many hope will hold for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. The police later announced that they were "arrested for possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine State and security forces".

Than Zaw Aung, the lawyer for the journalists, said the prosecutor formally indicted the pair at Wednesday's hearing.

Myanmar's Ministry of Information said the reporters "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media".

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday said she was encouraged by the Tatmadaw's investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims at Inn Din village in Rakhine State's Maungdaw Township and its plan to take action against those who committed the crime.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Wa Lone said that they had done nothing wrong and were simply doing their jobs as reporters.

The two journalists arrived and left court in handcuffs.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay declined to comment on the charges but said the two had their rights under an independent judicial system.

"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".

"The judge will be decide whether they are guilty or not according to the law", he told Reuters.

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

"State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the United States is "deeply disappointed" by the charges".

"For democracy to succeed and flourish, journalists must be able to do their jobs".

Amnesty International also called the arrests a "blatant attack on freedom of expression", and said they were preventing journalists in the country from independently reporting the situation in Rakhine State.

- Denmark's embassy in Myanmar called for the immediate release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Authorities have largely banned media from the conflict zone.

"A free press is critical to a free society - the detension of journalists anywhere is unacceptable".

"The secretary-general has repeated and will continue to repeat his concern at the erosion of press freedom in Myanmar and calling on the global community to do everything to secure the journalists' release and freedom of the press", said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"The Japanese government has conveyed its concern about this matter to the government of Myanmar and going forward, wants to discuss and make appeals at appropriate opportunities, including Foreign Minister Kono's visit to Myanmar", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday.

During a meeting on Friday, Kono asked Suu Kyi's government to allow humanitarian and media access to the affected area, the resettlement of returned refugees, and the implementation of recommendations made by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. Though constitutionally supreme, Htin Kyaw is beholden to Aung San Suu Kyi, who, as state counselor, keeps a tight grip on the civilian government via her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

She has made no public comment on the detention of the two Reuters reporters.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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