Two Reuters reporters charged in court


Two Reuters reporters charged in court

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International demanded Wednesday that all security forces accused of killing Rohingya be brought to justice.

"We are disappointed by today's decision to pursue charges against Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under the Official Secrets Act", the USA embassy in Myanmar said in a brief statement.

The two police officers, who just came back from Rakhine State after serving security duties in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, were also arrested and are facing the same charges as the two journalists. Some of their colleagues believe that they were victims of a set-up meant to intimidate and deter investigation of what the United Nations has called a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.

But the Rohingya community rejects the cards because all Rohingya who live in Myanmar have other forms of identification and official lists documenting all family members, said Kyaw Soe Aung, executive director of the Rohingya American Society.

Two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar are due to appear in court on Wednesday, when prosecutors could request that charges be filed against them over an accusation they broke the country's Official Secrets Act. "Most of them don't have any documents or evidence because the Myanmar army and security guards burned their houses, and they had to flee to Bangladesh".

"Partners have identified about 20 children separated from their families during the violence but estimate the total number to be at least 100 - most of whom are in parts of northern Rakhine state that they still can not access", Unicef spokesperson Marixie Mercado told journalists in Geneva during a briefing on her visit to Myanmar from December 6 through January 3.

Thet Oo Maung's wife, Pan Ei, said they could only smile at each another in court. "We call for their immediate release", it said in a statement.

"I completely accept the suggestions in his report", he said.

Several rights groups have criticised Myanmar since the arrests.

The magistrate said the police force has only sued the two journalists and the two police officers were excluded from it and the proceedings for their cases will be carried out by other respective authorities.

Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, an independent organization that advocates for the news media, agreed that authorities entrapped the two reporters.

"We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom", said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler. "Even though global groups have called for the reporters' freedom, Myanmar authorities haven't responded but are continuing to do what they want".

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 worldwide human rights standards".

"The media freedom that is so critical to rule of law and a strong democracy requires that journalists be able to do their jobs", said a statement from the State Department.

"There is deep concern and it is very worrying to see that press freedom in Myanmar is really declining", he told Al Jazeera from France's capital, Paris.

Kyaw Soe Aung told RFA that the Citizenship Law was unfair. Translated by Khet Mar.