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Myanmar authorities charge Reuters journalists with obtaining state secrets

[JURIST] Myanmar prosecutors said Wednesday that two Reuters journalists have been charged with obtaining state secrets.

Journalists Wal Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on December 12, 2017, while investigating the government's crackdown on the Rohingya minority group in the nation's Rakhine region. They were reportedly invited to meet with police officers in a restaurant. Police officers gave the journalists some documents, and both journalists, along with two police officers, were arrested soon after.

Prosecutors charged the journalists with possession of important secret government documents pursuant to Section 3.1 (c) [text, PDF] of the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act. If convicted, the pair might face up to 14 years in prison.

Various governments and international entities have condemned the arrests. Human Rights Watch [press release] called the arrest an enforced disappearance in accordance to international law definitions. Amnesty International [press release] said this is part of a growing climate in Myanmar where journalism is stifled and members of the press find themselves in increasingly hostile environments.

The US Embassy in Myanmar condemned [statement] the arrests and called for the release of the journalists. Representatives of the UN and various embassies including the UK, the US, Australia and the Netherlands attended the hearing. Reuters [Reuters report] Editor-in-Chief also condemned the arrests, calling it a "blatant attack on press freedom."

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