The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA) condemn the arrest of two journalists in Yangon on December 12, 2017. The IFJ and MJA demand the immediate release of the journalists.
According to Reuters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe, who both work for Reuters, went missing after being invited to meet police officials over dinner in Yangon on December 12. The following day, the Ministry of Information released a statement saying that the two journalists had been arrested for having documents that related to the unrest in Rakhine state. The Government statement Myanmar said that the pair had been arrested for illegally acquiring information with the intention to share it with foreign media.
According to the Irrawaddy online, the document was a Myanmar Border Guard document that detailed security force numbers and the amount of ammunition they had used in the first wave of attacks in late August. Since August, over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar in a military crackdown, which journalists have struggled to report on due to restricted access.
Wa Lone and Jyaw Soe are facing charges under the draconian Official Secrets Act (1923), which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said that the arrests were a signal that press freedom was shirking in Myanmar.
MJA, along with 11 other national media organisations condemned the arrests as an attack on press freedom. They also raised concerns about violations of their rights, with reports they have not been allowed to contact family.
The IFJ said: “The arrests of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe are a clear attempt by the Myanmar authorities to control the flow of information out of Rahkine State and silence any critical voices. Draconian laws such as the Officials Secret Act only work to weaken the rights of the people, withholding important information. We join our colleagues in Myanmar is demanding the immediate release of the two journalists and for all charges to be dropped.”
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