Myanmar Prosecutors Seek State Secrets Charges Against Detained Reuters Journalists

Myanmar Prosecutors Seek State Secrets Charges Against Detained Reuters Journalists

Myanmar Prosecutors Seek State Secrets Charges Against Detained Reuters Journalists

Having been remanded for a second 14-day period at a hearing last month, the case of two Reuters journalists began in earnest on Wednesday at Yangon's Northern District Court, with the prosecution confirming that charges under Burma's Official Secrets Act would be brought against 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.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said the "arrests and continued incarceration represent an egregious attack on press freedom - preventing them, and deterring other journalists, from reporting independently in Myanmar".

Clinton was U.S. president for much of the 1990s when the United States pressed Myanmar's then military rulers to release democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi from years of house arrest.

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 worldwide condemnation.

Washington, D.C. -based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Monday, denouncing the legal proceedings against the two journalists.

Myanmar journalists say despite the army's promise in 2011 to allow liberal reforms and press freedom as the country opened to the world, a pervasive network of undercover intelligence agents and their informants has not been dismantled under Suu Kyi's government. 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.

The two are due to appear in court on Wednesday.

"We are not doing anything wrong", Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo told journalists after the hearing.

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For low-wage workers, such as waitresses with fluctuating wages, "it boggles my mind", Stewart said. Most who are not report reasons such as illness, caring for a family member or attending college.

"We will take action against those policemen and also the reporters".

"None of the claims made by the authorities in this case seems to be credible", said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.

Police said they were arrested for possessing "important and secret" documents related to the situation in the country's western Rakhine state, according to reports.

"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.

The United States and the European Union both called for the men's release on Wednesday.

The case against the Reuters journalists has shocked Myanmar's embattled press corps.

Reporters Without Borders said the two reporters were being used as "scapegoats" to intimidate journalists, as rights groups condemned their continued detention.

The French foreign ministry called in a statement for the journalists' immediate release and for the free access of media to Rakhine State.

Rohingya in Bangladesh refugee camps have given consistent accounts of rape and murder at the hands of the Myanmar military and Buddhist vigilantes. The reporters said they had not been mistreated in custody.

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