Myanmar prosecutor seeks Official Secrets Act charges against two Reuters journalists

Myanmar statement

EXPLAINER-Two Reuters journalists due to make second Myanmar court appearance

It will be their second appearance in court and the prosecutor could request that charges are filed against them.

Following is some information about the case.

Washington, D.C. -based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Monday, denouncing the legal proceedings against the two journalists.

Myanmar journalist Thet Oo Maung, known as Wa Lone, right, stands in 2014 with other journalists with their mouths taped, symbolising the government's crackdown on the media. She has made no public comment on the case of the two Reuters reporters.

The army crackdown on the Rohingya began after Rohingya insurgents attacked security posts in late August.

Outside the courtroom, dozens of journalists dressed in black rallied in support of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, some carrying signs proclaiming "Journalism is not a crime". He started his reporting career with the online Rakhine Development News and later worked at the Root Investigative Agency.

He has been with Reuters since September a year ago.

The two journalists were detained on December 12, after agreeing to meet some Myanmar police officers for dinner. They were working on stories about the crackdown when authorities accused them of sending "important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine state to foreign agencies overseas", according to a government statement. The ministry has said they "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media".

In November, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded the journalists' "immediate release or information as to the circumstances around their disappearance", while European Union representative to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt warned that their prosecution "amounts to a series intimidation against journalists" in Myanmar.

They have told relatives they were arrested nearly immediately after being handed some documents by two policemen who they met at the restaurant for the first time.

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"We don't know yet where they are even though they were included on the witnesses' list", said Than Zaw Aung.

In the court, Kyaw Soe Oo embraced his wife and held his daughter for a couple of minutes.

Two Reuters journalists have been charged under Myanmar's Official Secrets Act despite widespread worldwide outrage. According to the reporters, the police arrested were not those who provided the documents. It has given no further information on the police arrested. Wa and Kyaw could face a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in prison, their legal representative shared.

Reuters said it was "extremely disappointed" that the authorities were seeking to prosecute.

Despite facing heavy criticism for the move, the government said it was simply implementing the rule of law.

Police arrested the newspaper's chief executive and four journalists. "They arrested us and took action against us because we were trying to reveal the truth", Wa Lone told reporters as the pair were led out of the court and back to prison following Wednesday's 30-minute hearing. During the hearing, they were allowed to meet relatives and a lawyer for the first time since being arrested.

Previously, U.N. and USA officials, a group of 50 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and Myanmar's Committee for the Protection of Journalists called on the Myanmar government to immediately and unconditionally release the two journalists. Both reporters have said they were not mistreated in custody, the report said.

Government officials from some of the world's major nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as top United Nations officials, have called for the release of the reporters.

The government has denied that their arrests represent an attack on press freedom and Suu Kyi's spokesman has said the case would be handled according to the law.

"A free press is critical to a free society - the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable".

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