Reuters reporters facing trial in Myanmar amid protests from local journalists

Two Reuters journalists arrested in their native Myanmar last month will face trial next week on charges of violating state secrets.

Press Gazette has reported that Wa Lone, 31 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, who were arrested on December 12 for “acquiring secret papers” from two policemen as they reported on the military crackdown against Rohingya Muslims, will stand trial on January 10.

The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Addressing the court, Wa Lone reportedly said: “We are just working journalists. We never violate journalism ethics.”

Dozens of Burmese journalists descended on the courtroom wearing black shirts in protest at the arrests.

“We are facing the same kind of harassment under the civilian government as we did under the military government,” the head of a local pressure group for press freedom was reported as saying.

“It is not fair for the two journalists to be charged under the official secrets act because they were doing their job as journalists who tried to get information.”

Meanwhile, Press Gazette also reported that charges against two Singaporean journalists and their staff working for Turkish state broadcaster TRT will be dropped. They were arrested last October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament building without permission.

Yangon-based journalist Victoria Milko told Mumbrella in December about the increasingly hostile situation for reporters and foreign press in Myanmar.

Milko, a multimedia editor at English-language magazine Frontier Myanmar,  described the treatment of journalists as “arbitrary”.

“There are some who don’t even meet their lawyers until they are standing in court. Charges can be changed last minute,” she said.


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