Reuters reporters face 14 years for 'receiving Rohingya secrets'

Reuters reporters face 14 years for 'receiving Rohingya secrets'

Burma may have a new name and a democratically elected government, but the oppressive laws introduced by British colonial overlords are again the preferred weapon of choice when dealing with critical journalists.

Myanmar's Ministry of Information said the pair "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media".

"It is true that both the villagers and security forces admitted they killed the 10 Bengali terrorists", the military statement said. After they were detained, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the arrests showed how press freedom was deteriorating in Myanmar, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for their immediate release.

Myanmar's military stand accused of a litany of human rights abuses in northern Rakhine.

The United Nations has condemned the army's campaign as ethnic cleansing. "This is clearly an attempt by the authorities to silence investigations into military violations and crimes against Rohingya in Rakhine State, and to scare other journalists away from doing the same", said James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were detained on December 12 after they had been invited to meet police officers over dinner. In an appearance that lasted no longer than 12 minutes, the pair were formally charged under section 3.1c of the 1928 Official Secrets Act.

"As soon as we receive the filled-up forms, we will check the household list and photos", he said.

Wa Lone's wife gave him a few small pieces of cake that she had brought.

In November, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate Rohingya refugees who wished to return voluntarily to Myanmar and could prove prior residency there.

"They arrested us and took action against us because we were trying to reveal the truth", Wa Lone told reporters as he and Kyaw Soe Oo were led out of the court and back to Yangon's Insein prison after the 30-minute hearing.

Phil Robertson of the group Human Rights Watch said that "if Aung San Suu Kyi and her government really cared about democratic reforms and governance, they could use their parliamentary majority to quickly reform this antiquated colonial law and bring it into compliance with global human rights standards. This government is looking increasingly authoritarian by the day", said David Baulk, Myanmar human rights specialist at Fortify Rights.

After being accepted in those two locations, which are renovated ones used in the 1992-93 refugee crisis, they will be placed in Hla Pho Khaung in a temporary camp which can hold up to 30,000 people.

But if intimidation is the motive, it does not appear to be working.

"We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom", Adler said in a statement. "Ways and means must be found to deliver these rights to Rohingya children in Rakhine State today", said Marixie Mercado, Unicef spokesperson, at a press briefing in Geneva.

"If this is done, the problems in Rakhine state will disappear", he said.

Refugees who have fled in their hundreds of thousands to neighbouring Bangladesh have given consistent accounts of massacres, rape and torture by Myanmar security forces flanked by ethnic Rakhine mobs.

"Put them [Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo] in prison for many years so that they will be afraid to betray us again".

With the judicial system as slow as it is archaic, it will likely be sometime before the outcome of this controversial case is announced.

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