Asian newspapers grouped under the Asia News Network (ANN) alliance yesterday expressed their solidarity with three journalists from Myanmar's Eleven Media Group who were arrested this week, calling for them to be immediately released.
The Eleven Media Group's managing editor Nari Min, editor-in-chief Kyaw Zaw Linn and chief reporter Phyo Wai Win were arrested on Wednesday for their investigation and coverage of the controversial business ventures of the Yangon regional government.
They had turned themselves in to the police that morning.
All three were brought before a Yangon court and later remanded in custody.
They were charged under Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code, which prohibits publishing information that may "cause fear or alarm".
It does not allow for bail and carries a maximum punishment of two years in prison.
Reuters cited defence lawyer Kyi Myint as saying that the Yangon regional government had filed a complaint over an article published on Monday.
The article included quotes from regional lawmakers raising questions about public spending, including on an overhaul of transport in the country's commercial hub.
In a statement yesterday, the ANN, which consists of 24 news organisations from 20 Asian countries, said it "stands by the three journalists - not because the Yangon regional government has no right to agitate for redress if it feels wronged by a news report - but because of the vehement use of the harshest part of the Penal Code that is only suited for the most heinous crimes".
"The news report in contention was not a crime, but a public interest endeavour to improve the functioning of the Yangon regional government," it added.
The Yangon authorities said they were unable to comment on the charges.
All three journalists will be remanded until the next hearing on Oct 17.
The Straits Times, along with the Eleven Media Group, is a member of the ANN.