Reuters reporters face 14 years for 'receiving Rohingya secrets'


The Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown targeting the Rohingya in response to deadly attacks by a Muslim insurgent group in August 2017.

He tweeted "it may not be a coincidence" that this admission came on the same day as two Reuters journalists were formally charged by police in court with breaching a colonial-era secrecy law.

The ministry has said the men "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media".

Than Zaw Aung said he appealed for the two to be immediately released on bail, but the judge said he would review that request and rule at the next hearing on January 23. It has given no further information on the police arrested.

But the Rohingya community rejects the cards because all Rohingya who live in Myanmar have other forms of identification and official lists documenting all family members, said Kyaw Soe Aung, executive director of the Rohingya American Society.

During yesterday's court hearing, Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists (PCMJ) wore black shirts as a protest to the prosecution of the two journalists. Several had the message "journalism is not a crime" or "release the arrested journalists now" on their T-shirts. His daughter began to weep as he was escorted away.

On his way out of the courtroom in north Yangon on Wednesday, Wa Lone learnt that his wife was expecting their first child.

"I am trying to be strong in everything".

The captives should have been handed over to the police, in line with procedures, but the militants were attacking "continuously" and had destroyed two military vehicles with explosives, it said.

Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone after the trail yesterday. Zarni Phyo  The Myanmar Times

"This is unacceptable", Wa Lone said from the back of a police truck after the brief hearing.

"The United States is deeply disappointed by today's court decision", the State Department said Wednesday as it reiterated that call.

"Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo must be immediately and unconditionally released".

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

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

Observers from the United Nations and from several embassies, including the Netherlands, Australia and Britain were at the court. "But we can say that only after seeing how the documents were written and submitted to the court", U Than Zaw Aung said.

The Foreign Correspondents Clubs of Thailand and Hong Kong released a joint statement calling for the immediate release of the journalists.

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

The plight of the Rohingya has received worldwide attention and led to the widespread condemnation of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was previously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. "The EU reiterates its call on the Myanmar government to ensure transparency and to make serious efforts in order to hold accountable all those involved in serious human rights abuses in the context of the ongoing crisis in Rakhine state", it said.

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