Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

Two detained Reuters journalists to appear in court

EXPLAINER – Two Reuters journalists due to make second Myanmar court appearance Two detained Reuters journalists to appear in court
Melissa Porter | 12 January, 2018, 03:20

Myanmar sought charges Wednesday against two Reuters journalists who stand accused of breaching the state secrets act, in a case that has renewed fears about press freedom in the country.

Two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar after reporting on "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims have appeared in court, with prosecutors formally charging the pair under the country's Official Secrets Act. The pair face up to 14 years' imprisonment under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Former President Bill Clinton also commented on the case in a Twitter post on Tuesday, saying "the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable".

Kristian Schmidt, representative of the European Union in Yangon, sent a letter to Myanmar's de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, urging the government to release the two journalists.

Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two journalists from the Reuters news agency on Wednesday with violating the Official Secrets Act, signaling the case will go forward despite global condemnation.

"Please tell the people to protect our journalists!" The reporters had been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location by police for several weeks following their arrest, raising concerns that they had become victims of enforced disappearance.

Negotiating a scrum of journalists gathered in front of the Insein courthouse in Yangon on Wednesday morning, Mr. Wa Lone struck a defiant pose, raising his cuffed hands and later flashing a thumbs-up sign. Her spokesman has said the case would be handled according to the law.

Ko Wa Lone's wife, Ma Pan Ei Mon, said her husband was diagnosed with a hernia and back pain and that she submitted the doctor's prescription to the police.

Lone who was arrested in Myanmar is seen in this
Lone who was arrested in Myanmar is seen in this

"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 curious reporters", Bastard said.

The Home Affairs Ministry has said it would take action against the two police officers -Captain Moe Yan Naing and Lance Corporal Khin Maung Linn - but has not yet made public whether it actually has.

"It's up to the court to decide whether the journalists are guilty or not because as a government, we don't interfere in the country's judicial system", said government spokesman Zaw Htay.

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 their release.

"We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom".

The military has severely restricted access to Rakhine to reporters, aid groups and observers.

Rohingya in Bangladesh refugee camps have given consistent accounts of rape and murder at the hands of the Myanmar military and Buddhist vigilantes. Both reporters have said they were not mistreated in custody, the report said.

The letter dated January 8, called on Suu Kyi "to provide the necessary legal protection for these two journalists, to ensure the full respect of their fundamental rights and to release them immediately".