Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists missing in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists missing in Myanmar

Myanmar's government said Wednesday that it had arrested two journalists working for the Reuters news agency for possessing "important secret papers" obtained from two police officers who had worked in Rakhine state, where violence widely blamed on security forces has forced more than 625,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

"For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely", officials said. "We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists", the embassy in Naypyidaw said in a statement.

"We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom", said Reuters president and editor in chief, Stephen J. Adler, in a statement.

The information ministry said the pair were accused of intending "to send important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine state to foreign agencies abroad".

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Rakhine State has been largely off-limits to journalists since the Myanmar military began conducting operations there that have displaced more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country.

Press advocates and human rights activists expressed concern that the arrests were part of a growing crackdown on press freedom in recent months.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that it is "deeply concerned by the highly irregular arrests".

Burmese officials released a staged image of the two journalists wearing handcuffs with documents displayed before them.

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News agencies said the reporters had been accused of violating Burma's sweeping Official Secrets Act, which dates from 1923, when the country was under British rule. Kyaw Soe Oo joined the media outlet in September.

After their disappearance Tuesday evening, the journalists' colleagues in Rangoon have since filed a missing persons report, visited three police station and inquired with several government officials about what may have happened to the two reporters.

The arrests of the two Reuters reporters are the latest in a string of detentions of and lawsuits against journalists in Myanmar since de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian-led National League for Democracy (NLD) party came to power in April 2016. 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.

"Yes it is correct that they were arrested", spokesman Zaw Htay said.

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