Former US President Calls For Release of Two Detained Journalists in Myanmar

By Roseanne Gerin
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Journalists stage a protest to demand the release of detained Reuters journalists Thet Oo Maung and Kyaw Soe Oo (pictured on posters in rear) in Pyay, south-central Myanmar's Bago region, Dec. 27, 2017.
Journalists stage a protest to demand the release of detained Reuters journalists Thet Oo Maung and Kyaw Soe Oo (pictured on posters in rear) in Pyay, south-central Myanmar's Bago region, Dec. 27, 2017.

Pressure from prominent individuals in the international community and rights groups is mounting on the Myanmar government to release two Reuters journalists detained in December on charges of violating the country's colonial-era Official Secrets Act, with former U.S. President Bill Clinton now calling for their immediate release.

Police arrested Thet Oo Maung, also known as Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, on Dec. 12 for violating the law by allegedly illegally possessing classified documents about security forces in northern Rakhine state, where a military crackdown has driven about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017.

“A free press is critical to a free society — the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable,” Clinton said in a Twitter post on Monday. “The Reuters journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately.”

Authorities picked up Thet Oo Maung and Kyaw Soe Oo after they met with two police officers on the outskirts of Yangon. 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 abroad,” according to a government statement.

The two journalists, who are being held in Insein Prison on the outskirts of Yangon, are due in court on Wednesday for their second hearing during which the prosecutor could request that charges be filed against them, Reuters reported.

If found guilty, they could be spend up to 14 years in prison.

Also on Tuesday, London-based Amnesty International urged Myanmar authorities to immediately release the pair.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said James Gomez, the organization’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement. “They have done absolutely nothing but carrying out their legitimate work as journalists. This is clearly an attempt by the authorities to silence investigations into military violations and crimes against Rohingya in Rakhine state and to scare other journalists away from doing the same.”

“These arrests have not happened in a vacuum, but come as authorities are increasingly restricting independent media,” he said. “Journalists and media outlets, in particular those who report on ‘sensitive topics,’ are living with the constant fear of harassment, intimidation or arrest. This clampdown on freedom of speech must end.”

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) weighed in on Tuesday with a statement condemning the arrests and suggesting that the detentions are meant to deter other reporters from doing their jobs.

“None of the claims made by the authorities in this case seems to be credible,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“What with the lack of transparency, the failure to respect proper legal procedure and the fabrication of evidence, everything suggests that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being used by the authorities as scapegoats in order to deter overly curious reporters,” he said.

EU envoy weighs in

Kristian Schmidt, the European Union’s representative to Myanmar, raised concerns about the arrest of the two journalists and uged their release in a letter to Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday.

“Journalists should … be able to work in a free and enabling environment without fear of intimidation or undue arrest or prosecution,” he said.

“We therefore call on your government to provide the necessary legal protection for these two journalists, to ensure the full respect of their fundamental rights and to release them immediately,” he said.

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

“The proceedings against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are a transparent attempt to intimidate the media and to prevent coverage of the unfolding tragedy of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The two reporters should not be in jail for trying to uncover the truth about this story of vital public interest.”

Also on Monday, a dozen reporters based in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw submitted a request to the Myanmar’s Home Affairs Ministry for more information about the case, arguing that it could have implications for the ability of journalists to do their jobs, Reuters reported.

Previously, U.N. and U.S. 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.

The media and NGOs have been barred from entering northern Rakhine where the Myanmar military stands accused of committing atrocities against the Rohingya during the crackdown which the U.N. and U.S. say amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Both the government and the army have denied the accusations.

Comments (2)

Sai Cliff Lin Kan

The Islamic terrorist group the ARSA has committed war crimes in Rakhine State. The ARSA had massacred innocent Hindu villagers because of they didn't convert their religion to Islam religion and also killed Buddhist villagers. The Islamic terrorists the ARSA had kidnapped Buddhist women and murdered after they raped them.
Why the UN, the EU, the UK and the US Government didn’t declare the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA as a terrorist group?

If the Burma was one of those countries and then they will declare the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA as a terrorist group.

I never heard of the UN Human Rights’ High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein denounce the ARSA for slaughtered innocent Hindu villagers and attacking on Buddhist villagers as well as kidnapped and raped Buddhist women and later they murdered their victims.
However, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, he seems to be personally condoned the Islamic terrorist RASA’s terrorism action by his silence.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein should be resigned from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights position. He is biased and advocate only for illegal immigrant Bengali Muslims in Rakhine State, Burma. He was one of the culprits of the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA simultaneously attacked on 30 Burmese Border Posts and Buddhist villages and massacred Hindus as well as the ARSA burned down all Buddhists, Hindu and Muslim homes and villages. Later, the Islamic terrorist the ARSA, the OIC and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein the UN OHCHR had blamed on Burmese security force and Buddhist Burmese villagers.
The ARSA attacked on Burmese border guard posts and Buddhist villages on 25th August 2017 was planned timing with the UN General Assembly. The Islamic terrorist the ARSA to provoke Burmese military, which was carefully planned operation by the OIC and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. They urged illegal immigrant Bengali Villagers to flee the Bangladesh border and torch their home before they flee to the Bangladesh border. They blamed Buddhist Burmese villagers and Burmese security force for their crimes at the UN. Their plan was seeking the UN Monitor a Safe Zone for illegal immigrant Bengali Muslim at the UN Security Council.
Their plan was destroyed by the survivor Hindu women come forward and give information about the ARSA mass slaughtered of Hindu villagers, and where about the victims’ mass graves just before the UN Security Council meeting.

The reporters from BBC, CNN, AP and Reuters in Bangladesh have lured Bengali refugee women with money and tell their fabricated rape and murder story. Their story will be useful for them when they seek the UN resettlement in third countries like the US, Canada and Australia. If their rape and murder story was true and then they won’t be talking to reporters and they were already murdered.
Some celebrities are becoming instant gullible. They believed the Bengali women’s stories are true because the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had written and report it to the UN and the UNSC.

Burmese peoples and Burmese Government were unfairly treated by the UN, the EU, the UK and the International Media and the Human Rights group. They are biased and they favor Muslims over Buddhist. The media only report fabricated story and false news about Burma. The Media has painted Buddhist Burmese evils
Where is their dignity and ethical standard of their profession? They should be ashamed of themselves.

Only a few of the media have reporting unbiased news and story, the RFA is one of them. Thank you RFA for reporting unbiased news about Rakhine crisis.

Jan 10, 2018 12:54 PM

Sai Cliff Lin Kan

Mr. Clinton should not be lending his name when rights activists have asked him to speak something about he doesn’t know. I know he will be utterly rejected if someone is trying to interfere with the US justice system.
Everyone has to respect “Freedom of Press’ but not to abuse “Freedom of Press”.
Does Wikileaks and Julian Assange have right to distribute the CIA and NSA classified top secret documents which were stolen by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning?
Do you (Mr. Clinton) believe the Wikileaks and Julian Assange have right to distribute and publish CIA and NSA intelligence top secret classified documents under Charter of “Freedom of Press”?
Burma is a sovereign country and it has law. If someone has broken the law and then the Government will be taking action against the person who breaks the law and will prosecute by accordance with country law.
Ko Thet Oo Maung and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, their lawyers will have chanced for to defend their clients and also accuses can defend themselves in court. They will free by court if they are not guilty.
In my view, these two are foolish, naïve and inexperienced reporters. They will do whatever their employer asked them to do without thinking.
They have tried to get country’s classified top secret file in their hands and which they have intention to give their foreign employer. The military operation in the border with Bangladeshi is top secret and any document related to the Burmese military operation sovereign borders is classified.
Theses two reporters didn’t think twice about what can happen to Burmese border security force and military operation in the border area if the detail of Burmese military operation in the border with Bangladesh and location of security force posts and weapons and important information were gone to the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA and Bangladeshi Military. Some media and INGO are doing spy for Governments and organization. These two are inexperienced and naïve.
I’m sure they will have free and fair trail and they will have chances to defend themselves. I wish all the best and good luck to both reporters.

Jan 10, 2018 11:04 AM





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