Detained journalists in Myanmar remanded for 2 more weeks

Two Reuters journalists who have been detained in Myanmar for the past two weeks were remanded in custody for a further two weeks on Wednesday as a probe continues into allegations they breached the nation’s Official Secrets Act.
Reuters reporter Wa Lone (left) stepping out of the van that took him to court yesterday, as his wife, Ms Pan Ei Mon, tries to hold his hand. Mr Kyaw Soe Oo (above) is the other journalist in custody. Both are being investigated for breaching Myanmar
Reuters reporter Wa Lone (above, left) stepping out of the van that took him to court yesterday, as his wife, Ms Pan Ei Mon, tries to hold his hand. Mr Kyaw Soe Oo is the other journalist in custody. Both are being investigated for breaching Myanmar's Official Secrets Act.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Reuters reporter Wa Lone (left) stepping out of the van that took him to court yesterday, as his wife, Ms Pan Ei Mon, tries to hold his hand. Mr Kyaw Soe Oo (above) is the other journalist in custody. Both are being investigated for breaching Myanmar
Reuters reporter Wa Lone stepping out of the van that took him to court yesterday, as his wife, Ms Pan Ei Mon, tries to hold his hand. Mr Kyaw Soe Oo (above) is the other journalist in custody. Both are being investigated for breaching Myanmar's Official Secrets Act.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

YANGON • Two Reuters journalists who have been detained in Myanmar for the past two weeks were remanded in custody for a further two weeks yesterday as a probe into allegations that they breached the nation's Official Secrets Act continues, according to their lawyer.

When they appeared in court for the proceedings, Mr Wa Lone, 31, and Mr Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were allowed to meet their families and their lawyer for the first time since their arrest on the night of Dec 12.

The two journalists said they had not been mistreated in custody.

"The situation is okay," Mr Wa Lone said after the hearing, adding that the two were being held at a police compound in Yangon.

"We will face it the best we can because we have never done anything wrong," he said. "We have never violated the media law nor ethics. We will continue to do our best."

Dozens of reporters and cameramen were outside the courthouse in a northern district of Yangon for the appearance of the two journalists. They arrived in a white van, rather than a police truck, dressed in casual clothes and were not handcuffed.

Only their families and lawyer were allowed into the courtroom along with police and government lawyers.

The two journalists are yet to be charged by a court, but they are facing proceedings under the draconian colonial-era Official Secrets Act for allegedly possessing documents related to the army crackdown in the western state of Rakhine - a highly sensitive issue in Myanmar.

They had worked on Reuters' coverage of a crisis in Rakhine, where an estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on militants.

They were arrested after being invited to meet police for dinner on the outskirts of Yangon.

Their lawyer, Mr Than Zaw Aung, who has been retained by Reuters, said outside the courthouse: "They are being accused under this charge while doing their work as media."

Reuters has denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their reporters, defending their right to report on an issue of global significance.

The two journalists are being investigated under a section of the Official Secrets Act which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

At least 11 journalists have been arrested in Myanmar this year, including two foreign reporters and a local journalist working for Turkish state broadcaster TRT. They were sentenced to two months in prison alongside their driver for flying a drone close to Myanmar's parliament building in October.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2017, with the headline 'Detained journalists in Myanmar remanded for 2 more weeks'. Print Edition | Subscribe