A Court in Myanmar Is Pressing Ahead With Charges Against Two Reuters Journalists

(YANGON, Myanmar) — A Myanmar court on Wednesday refused to dismiss a case against two Reuters journalists after the reporters’ lawyers insisted last week that the evidence doesn’t support the charges.

The case against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo has been strongly criticized internationally as an effort by authorities to intimidate the press, especially its coverage of the sensitive situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the military is accused of massive human rights abuses against the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The two journalists were arrested Dec. 12, with police accusing them of violating the Official Secrets Act, a law dating from British colonial times, by acquiring “important secret papers” handed to them by two policemen who worked in Rakhine. If convicted, they could get up to 14 years in prison.

“I am not happy at all,” Kyaw Soe Oo told reporters as he walked out of the courtroom Wednesday.

Wa Lone shouted out, “We journalists just did our job as we have the rights of free press in the democracy and now we are facing the charge that could probably put us in prison for 14 years.”

The two had worked on Reuters’ coverage of the crisis in Rakhine, where security forces’ response to a Muslim insurgents’ attack have driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh.

Read more: Myanmar’s Case Against Reuters Reporters Is a War on Truth

The case has drawn international attention, with high-profile rights lawyer Amal Clooney joining the legal team representing the jailed journalists. The United States, Britain and Canada, as well as the United Nations, have called for the reporters to be freed.

The defense lawyers asked the judge last week to dismiss the charges after four months of preliminary hearings, saying testimony from prosecution witnesses did not give enough evidence to prove the pair violated the law.

“The judge said that eight more witnesses are still left to testify and our claims of baseless evidence from persecution witnesses are not yet true,” Than Zaw Aung, one of the defense lawyers, said after Wednesday’s hearing.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said he was disappointed with the court’s decision.

“We believe that there are solid grounds for the court to dismiss this matter and to release our journalists,” Adler said in a statement. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reporting on issues in Myanmar in an independent and impartial way. They have not violated any laws in the course of their newsgathering and were simply doing their jobs. We will continue to do all we can to secure their release.”

Than Zaw Aung said the next hearing is set for April 20.


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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.


Two Journalists Have Been Arrested in Myanmar, Sparking Outcry Over a Widening Press Crackdown

Myanmar’s government said on Wednesday that police had arrested two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. The reporters had been working on stories about a military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rahkine State that has caused almost 650,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

The Ministry of Information said in a statement on its Facebook page that the journalists and two policemen face charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

The reporters “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,” said the statement, which was accompanied by a photo of the pair in handcuffs.

It said they were detained at a police station on the outskirts of Yangon, the southeast Asian nation’s main city.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner.

Reuters’ driver Myo Thant Tun dropped them off at Battalion 8’s compound at around 8 p.m. and the two reporters and two police officers headed to a nearby restaurant. The journalists did not return to the car.

Blatant attack

The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say their exodus from the mainly Buddhist nation was triggered by a military counter-offensive in Rakhine state that the United Nations has branded “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

“Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reporting on events of global importance in Myanmar, and we learned today that they have been arrested in connection with their work,” said Stephen J. Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters.

“We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom. We call for authorities to release them immediately,” he said.

A spokesman for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi confirmed that the two journalists had been arrested.

Read More: The Arrest of Three Journalists Shows a Disturbing Lack of Press Freedom in Democratic Myanmar

“Not only your reporters, but also the policemen who were involved in that case,” spokesman Zaw Htay said. “We will take action against those policemen and also the reporters.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert emphasized that the agency was “following this closely.” She said that U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel on Wednesday had a conversation with two government officials in Myanmar who seemed “genuinely unaware” of the situation.

“We care about the safety and security of international reporters who are simply just trying to do their jobs. So we’re going to continue to try to stay on that,” Nauert said.

The U.S. embassy in Yangon said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned by the highly irregular arrests of two Reuters reporters after they were invited to meet with police officials in Yangon last night”.

“For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely,” the embassy said. “We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists.”

The European Union’s mission in Yangon also voiced concern.

“The E.U. delegation is closely following their case and we call on the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of their rights,” it said in a statement. “Media freedom is the foundation of any democracy.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for the reporters’ immediate and unconditional release.

“These arrests come amid a widening crackdown which is having a grave impact on the ability of journalists to cover a story of vital global importance,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

Texted four words

Wa Lone, who joined Reuters in July 2016, has covered a range of stories, including the flight of Rohingya refugees from Rakhine in 2016 and, in much larger numbers, this year.

He has written about military land grabs and the killing of ruling party lawyer Ko Ni in January. This year he jointly won an honorable mention from the Society of Publishers in Asia for Reuters coverage of the Rakhine crisis in 2016.

He previously worked for The Myanmar Times, where he covered Myanmar’s historic 2015 elections, and People’s Age, a local weekly newspaper, where his editor was Myanmar’s current Minister of Information Pe Myint.

Kyaw Soe Oo, an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist from state capital Sittwe, has worked with Reuters since September.

He has covered the impact of the Aug. 25 attacks on police and army posts in the northern Rakhine, and reported from the central part of the state where local Buddhists have been enforcing segregation between Rohingya and Rakhine communities.

He previously worked for Root Investigation Agency, a local news outlet focused on Rakhine issues.

“I have been arrest” were the four words that Wa Lone texted to Reuters Myanmar Bureau Chief Antoni Slodkowski on Tuesday evening to let him know what was happening. Very soon after that Wa Lone’s phone appeared to have been switched off.

Over the next 24 hours, Reuters colleagues in Yangon filed a missing persons report, went to three police stations, and asked a series of government officials what had happened to the two reporters. They got no official information until Wednesday evening.



Female Journalists Do Not Have The Right To Bare Their Arms In The House

Obviously Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump haven’t gotten the memo.

According to The House, it is “inappropriate” for females (journalists, members, or otherwise) to wear anything sleeveless.

CBS News reports an unnamed young, female reporter was recently barred from entering the Speaker’s lobby because her dress did not cover her shoulders.

Apparently the journalist tried to use paper from her notebook to create makeshift sleeves, but she was still denied entry. Smh.

Related: Bernie Sanders Responds After Virginia Shooting

Just last month, Paul Ryan reiterated the “core principles of proper parliamentary practice” by saying:

“Members should wear appropriate business attire during all sittings of the House however brief their appearance on the floor may be.”

It’s important to note that the rule not allowing women to wear sleeveless blouses or dresses, sneakers, or open-toed shoes is NOT enforced in Senate.

IJR reporter Haley Byrd remembered when she was also kicked out of the day the House voted on the Republican healthcare bill:

“When I was kicked out that day, I was just trying to pass through the area to reach another hallway, but I was told I was violating the rules. They offered to find a sweater for me to put on, so it wasn’t some tyrannical end of free press, but I opted to just go around instead. But recently they’ve been cracking down on the code, like with open-toed shoes. I suspect the rules are being emphasized now that it’s summertime and excruciatingly hot outside and everyone is dressing for the weather.”

Guys are expected to wear suit jackets and ties — and if you forget yours, there’s another option:

Women have since confirmed the strictness of the unspoken rule:



Four U.S. journalists detained in Bahrain: journalists group

Handout photo shows U.S. journalist Anna DayDUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. journalist and three members of her camera crew were detained in Bahrain on Sunday, Reporters Without Borders said on Monday, urging Bahrain to release the four American citizens "rapidly and without harm." In a statement, the group described Anna Day and her three colleagues as experienced journalists, who had most recently worked on virtual reality documentaries in Egypt and Gaza. Bahrain's interior ministry said in a statement the four were "suspected of offences including entering Bahrain illegally having submitted false information to border staff, and participating in an unlawful gathering." The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports that U.S. citizens had been arrested but declined further comment, citing privacy considerations.

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