Embassy Statement on the Arrests of Two Reuters Reporters

Ivan Schwartz
December 14, 2017

Reuters spokesman Abbe Serphos said the news organization is "urgently seeking more information about the circumstances of their arrest and their current situation". They have been denied bail.

"Yes, it is correct that they were arrested", Zaw Htay said, according to Reuters.

No one at the Reuters bureau in Yangon would comment on the matter when contacted by RFA's Myanmar Service, and officials at the Htauk Kyant Police Station could not be reached.

The two male journalists, Thet Oo Maung Maung, who is also known as Wa Lone, and Kyaw Soe Oo, also known as Moe Aung, were detained by police around midnight Tuesday on the outskirts of Yangon, an Information Ministry report said.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler called for their immediate release. "We will take action against those policemen and also the reporters". "We are anxious that they will be imprisoned".

The statement revealed that they were arrested at around 11:30pm on Tuesday night while walking along a main road in Mingaladon Township.

The MPC will hold a meeting on what to do about the two reporters after it receives details from Reuters and from the police, he said.

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Reuters and the Associated Press reported that Burma's Ministry of Information posted a photo of the two journalists in handcuffs on Facebook and said the journalists were in possession of "important secret papers" and information about the military that they obtained from the two police officers, who had previously worked in the country's western Rakhine State - where rapes and killings since August have forced 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

"For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely", it said.

Wa Lone joined Reuters in 2016 and had since covered the Rohingya Muslims exodus. 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. The military, which is charge of security in northern Rakhine, and the civilian government have barred most journalists and global observers from independently traveling to the region.

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.

Journalists in Myanmar are facing renewed harassment, with several arrested in recent months.

Myanmar journalists and rights groups have called for the statute's abolishment, arguing that government and military officials are increasingly using it to silence their critics, thereby threatening freedom of the press.

Other reports by GizPress

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