Two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar, face official secrets charges

Cheryl Sanders
December 14, 2017

Pan Ei Mon, wife of Thet Oo Maung, confirmed the news and said Reuters had not provided any details about the men's arrests.

After their disappearance Tuesday evening, the journalists' colleagues in Rangoon have since filed a missing persons report, visited three police station and inquired with several government officials about what may have happened to the two reporters.

The global news agency said "we are urgently seeking more information about the circumstances of their arrest and their current situation". "We call for authorities to release them immediately", Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said in a statement.

Reuters has not yet informed the Myanmar Press Council about the arrests, said Myint Kyaw, a member of the organization which investigates and settles press disputes and protects media employees in Myanmar.

Irrawaddy online news said Wa Lone was found in the possession of a Myanmar Border Guard document that detailed security force numbers and the amount of ammunition they had used in the first wave of atrocities in late August, after Muslim insurgents had attacked 30 police posts. "Very few documents are public documents". "We are anxious that they will be imprisoned". He won an honorable mention from the Society of Publishers in Asia for his coverage of the conflict, according to Reuters.

The U.S. embassy spoke out on the arrests Wednesday, calling them "highly irregular" and demanding a response from the Burmese government.

The government of Myanmar said the two missing Reuters journalists are detained by police.

"For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely", it said in a statement. "We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists".

Wa Lone has worked for Reuters since a year ago and has covered a range of stories, including the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state, according to the news agency. It accused them of having documents related to unrest in Rakhine state, where a military crackdown has sent more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

In June, the military arrested three journalists who had been reporting on an event organized by a rebel army in northern Shan state. They, too, are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act. "Journalists across Burma have also come under increasing pressure for criticizing the government and military".

Reuters' driver Myothant Tun dropped them off at Battalion 8's compound at around 8 pm and the two reporters and two police officers headed to a nearby restaurant. A report by Free Expression Myanmar on Monday said every case that had made it to court so far had ended with a guilty verdict and a prison sentence.

Violations of the Officials Secrets Act, which became law during the country's colonial era of the 1920's, is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

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