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Two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar, face official secrets charges

Two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar, face official secrets charges

The information ministry said the pair were accused of intending "to send important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine state to foreign agencies abroad".

The papers included reports, a list of weapons, and a draft map, according to the police report filed by Lieutenant Zaw Naing from the No. 8 Security Unit.

The two journalists were being interrogated at Htauk Kyant Township police station on the outskirts of Yangon, BBC reported in Burmese on Wednesday. They have been denied bail.

Reuters have not confirmed the arrest.

The U.S. State Deparment also expressed concern, tweeting that "freedom of the press if the cornerstone of democracy". They were released after more than two months in custody.

"We have filed a missing person's report and are doing everything we can to locate them", she said by email. "We are anxious that they will be imprisoned". "We will take action against those policemen and also the reporters".

"Myanmar media's freedom will definitely deteriorate if these reporters are punished", Myint Kyaw said.

Dila and members of her family inside their tent in Kutapolong. Credit Roland Kay-Smith
Dila and members of her family inside their tent in Kutapolong. Credit Roland Kay-Smith

"While the circumstances of the arrest of the two Reuters journalists remain unclear, their detention comes on the heels of the arrests of journalists in multiple parts of Burma under a variety of charges", said Richard Weir, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

Two Reuters journalists were arrested on Tuesday evening in Myanmar's main city, Yangon, a government spokesman said.

"For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely", it said.

The reporters had been working on stories about military persecution of Rohingya Muslims, which has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Refugees have told of horrifying attacks, murder, rape and arson. They, too, are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act.

The military and the civilian government have prohibited most journalists and global observers from traveling independently to the area.

A photo of the two reporters standing behind a table displaying documents, phones, and money has been posted to the Ministry of Information's Facebook page. If so, the journalists could face up to 14 years in prison.

The number of online defamation cases has shot up, with a telecommunications law ensnaring online satirists, activists and journalists.

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