European Union calls for release of reuters journalists charged in Myanmar

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

Two Reuters journalists were due in a Myanmar court on Wednesday where they could be charged under a secrecy law that carries up to 14 years in jail, as calls escalate for their release.

They were arrested in December after police accused them of violating a colonial-era law by acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen - something the pair deny.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner.

"A free press is critical to a free society-the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable", he tweeted on Monday.

Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said he was "extremely disappointed" by the charges and again called for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to be released immediately.

Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two journalists from the Reuters news agency on Wednesday with violating the Official Secrets Act, signaling the case will go forward despite worldwide condemnation.

UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado (seen below), told journalists in Geneva that prior to August 25, UNICEF had been treating 4,800 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and that these children were no longer receiving the life-saving treatment. In 2014, he joined the English-language Myanmar Times, covering the 2015 election that swept Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to power.

A district judge said police charged the pair under a section of the Official Secrets Act which punishes anyone who "obtains, collects, records or publishes... any official document or information" which could be "useful to an enemy". She has made no public comment on the case of the two Reuters reporters.

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

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"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".

Former US president Bill Clinton also weighed in on the issue.

Negotiating a scrum of journalists gathered in front of the Insein courthouse in Yangon on Wednesday morning, Mr. Wa Lone struck a defiant pose, raising his cuffed hands and later flashing a thumbs-up sign.

The case against the Reuters journalists has shocked Myanmar's embattled press corps.

Family members of the journalists, who were present at the court, told a news conference late previous year that police may have fabricated a case for their arrest.

It is a case that highlights growing concerns about press freedom in the country.

Top officials from the United Nations and several countries, including Britain and Canada, have called for the release of the pair.

The French foreign ministry called in a statement for the journalists' immediate release and for the free access of media to Rakhine State. Both reporters have said they were not mistreated in custody, the report said.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders estimates as many as 13,000 Rohingya civilians were killed in the first month of atrocities committed by the Myanmar army and Buddhist mobs.

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