Two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar: government spokesman

The US embassy in Yangon expressed concern Wednesday over the "highly irregular" arrest of two Reuters journalists in the Myanmar capital.

Wa Lone and Moe Aung (also known as U Thet Oo Maung and Kyaw Soe Oo respectively) were arrested in northern Yangon Tuesday night, after meeting with two policemen who had recently served in Rakhine State.

The journalists allegedly planned "to send important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine state to foreign agencies overseas", according to the government's Myanmar Press Council.

Irrawaddy online news said Wa Lone was found in the possession of a Myanmar Border Guard document that detailed security force numbers and the amount of ammunition they had used in the first wave of atrocities in late August, after Muslim insurgents had attacked 30 police posts.

Myanmar journalists and rights groups have called for the statute's abolishment, arguing that government and military officials are increasingly using it to silence their critics, thereby threatening freedom of the press. "We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists", said the Embassy.

"Very few documents are public documents", he said. "We don't have a Freedom of Information Act in our country yet".

Two policemen have also been arrested.

Ko Wa Lone, 31, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were walking north on the Number 3 Main Road in Mingalardon Township, near the corner of Nilar Road, at 11:30pm on Tuesday.

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.

A local interpreter talks to journalists as he leaves after his trial at a court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar in a case involving two foreign journalists prosecuted for flying a drone over parliament.

A lawyer involved in the case told the BBC that the reporters could face 14 years in prison. They, too, are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act. The military, which is charge of security in northern Rakhine, and the civilian government have barred most journalists and global observers from independently traveling to the region. Two foreign journalists along with two of their Myanmar associates are now awaiting trial on new charges after already being sentenced to jail for illegally flying a drone over parliament.

Several Myanmar reporters have been arrested in recent months. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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