Detained Reuters Journalists Appear in Myanmar Court

Detained Reuters Journalists Appear in Myanmar Court

Detained Reuters Journalists Appear in Myanmar Court

Local and foreign media have called the Reuters reporters' arrest a threat to press freedom, and Western countries including the US, UK and Canada have urged the Myanmar government to release them.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on December 12 for allegedly "illegally obtaining and possessing...important and secret government documents", Myanmar's Ministry of Information quoted police as saying.

Photo Family members of Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo outside the court in Yangon on Wednesday. If ultimately convicted, they face up to 14 years in prison.

"A free press is critical to a free society-the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable", he tweeted on Monday.

A spokesman for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi confirmed that the two journalists had been arrested.

Myanmar prosecutors are pushing to lay charges against two detained Reuters reporters, under the Official Secrets Act, who made a scheduled appearance before a Yangon court.

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Suu Kyi won a 2015 election and formed a government in early 2016, although she is barred by the constitution from becoming president.

He said authorities claimed that the two policemen who supposedly attended the dinner were also arrested but the reporters say they are not the ones who gave them the documents, and authorities have failed to explain explained the glaring inconsistency.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power referred in a post on Twitter to the detention of the two reporters as "an outrage & symptom of a world without credible US leadership".

The two are due to appear in court on Wednesday.

"We believe time is of the essence and we continue to call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's prompt release".

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Despite facing heavy criticism for the move, the government said it was simply implementing the rule of law.

Previously, U.N. and USA officials, a group of 50 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and Myanmar's Committee for the Protection of Journalists called on the Myanmar government to immediately and unconditionally release the two journalists.

"It seems to be an effort to disappear the source of the leaks - or at least the people who have taken care of these documents provided by villagers in Rakhine state that would indicate military assaults on Rohingya", Francis Wade, a London-based freelance journalist and author of Myanmar's Enemy Within, told VOA.

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

The media and NGOs have been barred from entering northern Rakhine where the Myanmar military stands accused of committing atrocities against the Rohingya during the crackdown which the United Nations and US say amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Japan wants to raise the matter of the two reporters with the Myanmar government at appropriate opportunities, including a visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono this week, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo.

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Human rights group Amnesty International also called for the immediate release of the two and for freedom of speech to be respected.

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