The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday called for the immediate release of two journalists arrested in Myanmar two weeks ago for allegedly possessing leaked documents relating to police operations in Rakhine State.
Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, who works for Reuters, were arrested on December 12 in Yangon and face 14 years in jail if found guilty of violating official secrets legislation.
“Myanmar authorities should immediately release the two Reuters journalists whose detention appears aimed at stopping independent reporting of the ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingyas,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.
“Their secret, incommunicado detention lays bare government efforts to silence media reporting on critical issues,” he added.
The two journalists have been accused of obtaining classified documents by deception from two policemen – also arrested and charged with similar crimes – who returned from Rakhine after carrying out security duties.
The HRW said authorities have not provided any information on the whereabouts of the arrested journalists and denied them access to counsel or family.
Over 650,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the offensive that the Myanmar Army launched in August in response to a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya rebels.
“The Myanmar government’s increasing restrictions on the media should not be taken lightly and concerned governments should encourage the government to stop targeting journalists,” Adams said.