11 January, 2018, London UK — On Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 Burma formally charged Reuters Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo violating the country’s Secrets Act, an antiquated law from the colonial era, for supposedly receiving confidential military information. The journalists have denied even violating the act, and circumstances surrounding their arrest appear to show a case of entrapment where the military arranged for someone to give the journalists these documents without their knowledge or consent so they could then be charged for possessing them. The supposed documents the journalists are charged with possessing relate to Burma’s Rakhine State, where Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have covered human rights violations by the military against the ethnic Rohingya.
“The arrest of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is an obvious attempt to stop free press in Burma and to intimidate any journalists who might attempt to cover human rights violations occuring in the country. The use of antiquated laws and what appears to be falsified evidence to prevent accountability in the Military and government is extremely worrying and must be immediately addressed and corrected, ” said Kyaw Win, Executive Director of BHRN.
From the facts currently known it seems clear that the arrest and prosecution against Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are intended to disrupt investigations into the military’s actions inside of Rakhine State and send a message to other journalists not to interfere. The arrests of the Reuters journalists an also follows a series of similar arrests this year against journalists and civilians who covered issues regarding conflict in the country and the treatment of minorities.
With this in mind the Burma Human Rights Network calls on the Burmese Government to drop all charges and immediately release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. BHRN calls on the international community to utilize pressure on the Burmese Government to release the journalists and aspire towards a more truly fair and free society which requires a free and unhindered press.
Over the course of the year several journalists have been arrested inside of Burma for minor or obscure offenses or on false accusations. Individuals who have spoken with the press have also been arrested and charged with false assertions of wrongdoing. Before recent democratic reforms the country was notorious for censorship and heavy handed approaches to the media, including the arrests and detention of media. Recently Burma has become significantly more antagonistic with international media as the coverage of the current conflict in Rakhine State has exposed a number of serious accusations against the military. At the same time domestic media has faced serious pressure to repeat government lines.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) is based in London, operate across Burma and works for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. BHRN has played a crucial role advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
T: +44(0) 740 345 2378
View the original press release HERE.