Myanmar charges reporters with Official Secrets Act violation

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Nay Pyi Taw, Dec 14 (IANS) Myanmar on Thursday charged two journalists with violating the British colonial era Official Secrets Act and illegally obtaining confidential documents from the police related to a controversial military offensive in Rakhine.

Wa Lone, 31 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, who work for the Reuters news agency, were arrested on Tuesday in Yangon and face a possible 14-year jail sentence, reports Efe news.

Reuters President Stephen J. Adler issued a statement on Wednesday night saying: “We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom. We call for authorities to release them immediately.”

The two reporters have been working on stories related to a military offensive in western Rakhine that has led hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim minority to flee the country over the last three months.

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“The two journalists obtained the documents by deception from the two policemen who came back from Rakhine state after serving security duties,” the Myanmar Police said in a statement.

The two police officers were also arrested and face similar charges.

Over 647,000 Rohingyas — one of the most persecuted communities in the world — have fled to Bangladesh to escape the offensive and related abuse – including rape and torching of villages – that the Myanmar Army launched in August in response to a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya rebels.

Media and human rights organisations have also repeatedly denounced the climate of repression under which journalists work in Myanmar despite the return of democracy in 2016 after almost half a century of military dictatorship.

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