The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned over the detainment in Bangladesh of two Myanmar photojournalists on charges “impersonation” and providing “false information” and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities for their immediate release and dropping of all charges. The IFJ joins Myanmar Journalists’ Association (MJA) in also calling for the full engagement of Myanmar’s Ministry of Information and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in negotiating their earliest release.
Award-winning photojournalist Min Zayar Oo and his assistant, Hkun Lat, who work for German magazine GEO, were accused of entering Bangladesh on tourist visas instead of journalist visas, and reporting “fake news” and arrested on September 7. They have been denied bail and are in detention. The photojournalists face up to seven years in jail if found guilty of violating Bangladesh’s immigration laws. GEO had said its editorial board was deeply concerned about the two journalists' continued detention.
The MJA, in a statement said: “The MJA, which has been advocating for protection of journalists’ rights to freedom of expression, expresses grave concern about the incident. MJA strongly urges the Myanmar government to cooperate with Bangladesh for the earliest possible release of the photojournalists.”
The human crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is a major story for the region as vast numbers of self-identifying Rohingya people cross the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh fleeing the insecurity in the region. However, the IFJ is concerned that the full extent of this humanitarian crisis cannot be fully told so long as media reporting on the situation continues to be impeded and controlled in both Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The IFJ said: “This latest development in Bangladesh must be condemned and the journalists immediately released. Already both national and international media are being blocked in Rakhine state in the name of security where it is reported that an unknown number of Rakhine, Hindu and minority ethnic people have also been displaced. These controls are blocking the public’s right to know, giving way to an increasing level of misinformation and fake news on the situation, which is only serving to inflame the crisis. Access must be given to independent media to key areas.”
The IFJ also calls on Myanmar’s government and military to respect the role of the media and allow immediate access to journalists to report on the crisis to allow credible and verified sources of news to prevent misinformation inflaming the situation.