A Myanmar court has charged two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, for violating national secrecy law.
The detained Reuters journalists had been covering Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis in the northern Rakhine State.
The detained journalists were formally indicted by prosecutors in Yangon on Wednesday. They have been accused of breaching Official Secrets Act.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s lawyer said, if proven guilty, the Reuters journalists could be sentenced to a maximum 14 years in prison.
The journalists have bee detained on December 12 from the outskirt of Yangon after being invited to dine with police officers.
The prosecution have now formally charged Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with section 3/1C of official secrets act. In a statement afterwards Wa Lone said they did nothing wrong and that this is an attempt to stop and intimidate them. #journalismisnotacrime pic.twitter.com/yQP8fQjATI
— Katie Arnold (@Kate_Arno) January 10, 2018
According to Reuters, the accusations against the journalists are not clear. They had been detained “for allegedly possessing classified documents related to Rakhine state.”
Detained journalist Wa Lone told the press, “We never made any mistakes, they are trying to stop us and intimidate us. We will face the charges filed against us.”
Myanmar’s Ministry of Information said the detained reporters “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.”
.@stephenjadler: "We are extremely disappointed that the authorities seek to prosecute #Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under #Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom." images via @Journotopia pic.twitter.com/AqW58n03DW
— Trad American Angel (@RightWingAngel) January 11, 2018
The detention of the Reuters journalists has sparked an outcry. Reporters Without Borders’ Asia Pacific region head Daniel Bastard said the detained journalists are “just being used as scapegoats to shut down the mouths of courageous journalists.”
“There is a deep concern and it is very worrying to see that press freedom in Myanmar is really declining.”
The U.S. is deeply disappointed by today’s court decision in #Burma to allow prosecution of @Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under the Official Secrets Act. We reiterate our call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s immediate and unconditional release. https://t.co/pKwkjqX8MI pic.twitter.com/TZblWiYkZQ
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) January 10, 2018
Reuters has condemned the charges and detention of the journalists. Stephen J Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters said, “We are extremely disappointed that the authorities seek to prosecute Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom.”
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s Asia program coordinator Steven Butler said, “The proceedings against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are a transparent attempt to intimidate the media and to prevent coverage of the unfolding tragedy of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.”