United Nations chief for release of arrested Reuters journalists in Myanmar


In this image released by the Myanmar Ministry of Information and broadcast by Myanmar's MRTV on December 13, Reuters reporters Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo stand handcuffed in Myanmar.

Global aid group Doctors Without Borders said its field survey has found at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed between August and September in a crackdown by Myanmar's security forces.

Ko Wa Lone, 31, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were walking north on the Number 3 Main Road in Mingalardon Township, near the corner of Nilar Road, at 11:30pm on Tuesday.

Stephen Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters, said the organisation was "outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom".

"The EU delegation is closely following their case and we call on the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of their rights", it said in a statement.

In a grotesque piece of staging, a photo accompanying the government's statement showed the two journalists standing handcuffed behind a table covered with documents. It said they had collected "information and important secret papers related to the security forces" from the policemen, who had earlier worked in Rakhine but were now in Yangon, the country's largest city.

"The FCCT's professional membership is alarmed by the use of this draconian law with its heavy penalties against journalists simply doing their jobs". The organisations include the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalists Union (MJU), Burma News International (BNI), Myanmar Media Lawyers' Network (MML), and the Myanmar Women Journalists Society (MWJS), which are based in Yangon, and other regional organisations such as the Arakan Journalist Association and Taunggyi Journalist Association.

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According to the United Nations, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims - a persecuted, stateless minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar - have fled across the border from the northern tip of Rakhine since then.

The Secretary-General called the arrests an indicator of the "erosion of press freedom" in the country.

He said he did not know where the journalists were, Pann Ei added, but he did tell her they would be brought back to the station in "two to three days at most".

The military, which is charge of security in northern Rakhine, and the civilian government have barred most journalists and worldwide observers from independently traveling to the region.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand released a statement calling on the Myanmar authorities to release both reporters immediately. She said that U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel on Wednesday had a conversation with two government officials in Burma who seemed "genuinely unaware" of the situation. "We urge the government to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the journalists".

Journalists in Myanmar are facing renewed harassment, with several arrested in recent months. 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.