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U.S. disappointed in Myanmar decision on two reporters under OSA

14 January 2018

The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where security forces are blamed for rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims that have sparked the exodus of some 650,000 people to Bangladesh.

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

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

"State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the United States is "deeply disappointed" by the charges".

We call for the respect of their fundamental rights, their immediate release by the Burmese authorities, and free media access to Rakhine State.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are not the first journalists to be charged under a colonial-era law in the last 12 months. "The Reuters journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately", Clinton said in a Twitter post.

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"They arrested us and took action against us because we were trying to reveal the truth", Wa Lone told reporters as he and Kyaw Soe Oo were led out of the court and back to Yangon's Insein prison after the 30-minute hearing.

Shortly after the hearing, Reuters president Mr Stephen J. Adler said the charges were "wholly unwarranted" and a "blatant attack on press freedom".

Phil Robertson of the group Human Rights Watch said that "if Aung San Suu Kyi and her government really cared about democratic reforms and governance, they could use their parliamentary majority to quickly reform this antiquated colonial law and bring it into compliance with global human rights standards".

"We call for their release". The six were initially charged under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act but were released without charge in July, having spent nearly two months in jail.

"In the US, it's under attack in a frighteningly casual way". Amnesty International [press release] said this is part of a growing climate in Myanmar where journalism is stifled and members of the press find themselves in increasingly hostile environments. "A free press that can work without intimidation and fear of undue arrest and prosecution is a fundamental element of any democratic society", the European Union delegation in Myanmar said.

The US Embassy in Myanmar condemned [statement] the arrests and called for the release of the journalists.

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The trial follows a year filled with clampdowns on press freedom in Myanmar.

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. "It's not too late for the government to unconditionally drop the charges and let them go home to their families".

- Amnesty International demanded the immediate release of the two journalists, saying they had been arbitrarily detained.

Daniel Bastard, Asia Pacific region head for Reporters Without Borders, said the pair were "just being used as scapegoats to shut down the mouths of courageous journalists".

Also in October 2017, a Myanmar court jailed two journalists working for a Turkish news channel, sentencing them to two months of hard labour after being arrested for possessing an aerial drone.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, are charged with allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act and face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. "This is clearly an attempt by the authorities to silence investigations into military violations and crimes against Rohingya in Rakhine State, and to scare other journalists away from doing the same". On January 8, former United States President Bill Clinton tweeted: "A free press is critical to a free society - the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable".

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As the Myanmar government has met the worldwide outcry over alleged atrocities against the Rohingya with blanket denials, critical foreign media has increasingly been viewed as part of a "fake news" conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the country.

U.S. disappointed in Myanmar decision on two reporters under OSA