September 24, 2018
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Myanmar charges detained reporters with violation of archaic act

Bangkok, Jan 10 (efe-epa).- Two Reuters journalists, who were arrested by Myanmar authorities end of last year, face 14 years in prison after they were formally charged with violating an archaic state secrets act on Wednesday.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act dating back to 1923 when Myanmar was a British colony, nonprofit Fortify Rights said in a statement, and demanded the duo should be freed.

"The fact is authorities are prosecuting these journalists for doing their jobs. They should be released immediately and unconditionally," the statement said.

The reporters, who were investigating a controversial military offensive against the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority community, in western Myanmar's restive Rakhine region, were arrested on Dec. 12, 2017 in Yangon, after they met two police officers who had reportedly handed them confidential documents.

The Myanmar army had launched a huge military offensive in Rakhine following a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya rebels leading to the exodus of more than 650,000 Rohingyas to neighboring Bangladesh.

The Myanmar army has denied committing rights abuses against the Rohingyas as part of the campaign, which the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had described as ethnic cleansing.

Meanwhile, the detention period of the journalists were extended on Dec. 27, when they had first appeared in court.

Countries and organizations from around the world, including the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and human rights nonprofits like Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have all condemned the arrests and urged Myanmar to free the reporters.

"A free press is critical to a free society-the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable. The Reuters journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately," former US President Bill Clinton had tweeted on Monday.

Since the party of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi formed a democratic government in 2016, more than 70 people have been arrested for defamation on social networks, including journalists.

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