Charged With Journalism: Reuters Reporters Face 14 Years' Prison in Myanmar

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi talks during a news conference in Naypyitaw Myanmar

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi talks during a news conference in Naypyitaw Myanmar

Two Myanmar journalists from the Reuters news agency have been charged with illegally obtaining secret government documents.

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.

Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were questioned at the Aung Tha Pyay police interrogation center in Yangon Region's Mayangone Township for 15 days before appearing at the Mingalardon Township Court for the first time on December 27.

Convictions under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act carry possible 14-year prison terms.

Clinton was USA 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.

The Ministry of Information said in a statement on its Facebook page that the journalists and two policemen face charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Washington, D.C. -based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Monday, denouncing the legal proceedings against the two journalists. In 2014, he joined the English-language Myanmar Times, covering the 2015 election that swept Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to power. The reporters were arrested nearly immediately after police handed them documents they said the reporters could review at their homes.

Ko Wa Lone's wife, Ma Pan Ei Mon, said her husband was diagnosed with a hernia and back pain and that she submitted the doctor's prescription to the police.

She has made no public comment on the detention of the two Reuters reporters.

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Despite facing heavy criticism for the move, the government said it was simply implementing the rule of law.

"We believe time is of the essence and we continue to call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's prompt release".

Only their lawyer and relatives, along with police and government lawyers, were allowed into the court.

Government officials from some of the world's major nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as top United Nations officials, have called for the release of the reporters.

It is a case that highlights growing concerns about press freedom in the country.

Under the current government, at least 32 journalists have been charged, according to the local group We Support Journalists, the Associated Press reported.

"This situation amounts to a serious intimidation against journalists in general and from Reuters in particular", said Kristian Schmidt, representative in Yangon of the EU's 28 states, said in the letter dated 8 January.

The military has severely restricted access to northern Rakhine state to journalists, aid groups and observers. A statement on the Facebook page of the military's commander in chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said that the 10 bodies there were of Muslims who had been taken to the cemetery and killed by villagers and security forces "because they were terrorists".

The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations but are denied citizenship, and branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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