UN experts urge Myanmar to drop charges against two Reuters reporters

The United Nations human rights experts – David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, today urged the Myanmar government to drop charges against two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and release them immediately.

On 11 April, a court in Yangon rejected a motion to dismiss the case against the two reporters and posted the next of hearing for 20 April.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reporting on the widespread assault on the Rohingya population in Rakhine State when authorities arrested them on 12 December 2017. The authorities accuse the journalists of illegally acquiring information with the intention of sharing it with foreign media. On 21 December 2017, UN experts raised concern that the charges brought against the reporters under the 1923 Official Secrets Act are tantamount to the criminalisation of journalism in Myanmar.

“We urge the prosecution to drop the charges against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and we urge the Government to release both journalists immediately,” the UN experts said in a statement today.

It is pertinent to mention that on 10 April, seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing 10 Rohingya Muslim men in a village in Rakhine State.

“The perpetrators of a massacre that was, in part, the subject of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s reporting have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. And yet these two reporters face a possible 14 years imprisonment. The absurdity of this trial and the wrongfulness of their detention and prosecution are clear,” the UN Special Rapporteurs said.

“We urge the Government to ensure not only the protection and release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. We also urge the Government to ensure that investigative journalism, especially journalism relating to human rights violations and the situation in Rakhine State, is duly protected in Myanmar,” they further said.

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