Rex Tillerson demands release of two reporters in Myanmar
U.S. diplomats have called for the release of two Reuters reporters being held in Myanmar, says the U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The statement came while Tillerson was giving a press conference outside of the United Nations on the North Korea nuclear crisis.
âOur local representatives at the mission in Myanmar, at the embassy, are expressing our concerns over the detention of individuals, demanding their immediate release or information as to the circumstances around their disappearance,â Tillerson stated.
Tillerson is the latest member of the international community to condemn the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who did reporting work for Reuters, including coverage of the current Rohingya refugee crisis.
(Read More on the Rohingya refugee crisis).
The Myanmar government has not cited their reporting on the Rohingya as a reason for their detention. The Ministry of Information, which controls state-run media and often acts as the voice of the government, said that the two journalists were arrested for âillegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,â according to the ministryâs Facebook page. The post has since been taken down. No details on the âillegally acquired informationâ has been given.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being formally charged under the Government Secrets Act, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Information website. The law that has been unchanged since British colonial rule, and comes with a maximum sentence of 14 years.
The National League of Democracy (NLD), the party led Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, appears to support the decision to arrest both journalists. Htin Kyaw, a key leader of the NLD, agreed to let the charges proceed, according to reporting from Reuters. Though the same Reuters report quotes other senior NLD leaders who are critical of the governmentâs treatment of the journalists.
Freedom of the press was one of the significant reforms made during Myanmarâs transition towards quasi-democracy in 2011, which included the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from years of house arrest. The military government abandoned pre-publication censorship of media content in 2012, which led to several international journalists to report from the country.
In the same press conference, Tillerson expressed concern whether these arrests would led to further erosions of press freedom.
âA free press is vital to Myanmarâs transition and becoming a viable democracy, and we want Myanmarâs democracy to succeed. We know it is a process that they need to work through. This particular crisis is a real test of whether they are going to be able to effect a successful journey to democracy.â Tillerson said.
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