Reuters Journalists Covering Rohingya Crisis Charged in Myanmar

A guards of honour stand during during an event marking the 70th anniversary of Martyrs Day at the Martyrs Mausoleum dedicated to the fallen independence heroes in Yangon Myanmar

Soldiers at a Martyrs’ Day event dedicated to the fallen independence heroes in Yangon

Despite worldwide calls for their immediate release, Myanmar security forces charged the journalists "under the state secret (Official Secrets) act, section 3.1" at the Yangon court on Wednesday.

Myanmar has accused Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, of breaching the country's Official Secrets Act, a little-used law from colonial rule.

Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were questioned at the Aung Tha Pyay police interrogation center in Yangon Region's Mayangone Township for 15 days before appearing at the Mingalardon Township Court for the first time on December 27. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

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.

The Ministry of Information said in a statement on its Facebook page that the journalists and two policemen face charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

"Please tell the people to protect our journalists!"

Suu Kyi won a 2015 election and formed Myanmar's first civilian government in more than half a century in early 2016, although she is barred by the constitution from becoming president.

Reuters' driver Myothant Tun dropped them off at Battalion 8's compound at around 8 pm and the two reporters and two police officers headed to a nearby restaurant.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power referred in a post on Twitter to the detention of the two reporters as "an outrage & symptom of a world without credible US leadership".

"They arrested us and took action against us because were were trying to reveal the truth", Wa Lone said, according to Reuters.

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.

"He wanted to hold his baby but he couldn't because of the handcuffs", said Chit Su, the wife of Kyaw Soe Oo. She has made no public comment on the case of the two Reuters reporters.

The most well-documented recent case was in 2014, when the Unity Journal weekly published an article it said exposed a secret military chemical weapons factory.

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.

Surakiart Sathirathai, a former Thai foreign minister and the head of a new worldwide advisory panel on the Rohingya crisis, also expressed concern at the arrest of the reporters and said he hoped the case did not lead to broader restrictions on the global media.

The United States and the European Union both called for the men's release on Wednesday.

The letter dated January 8, called on Suu Kyi "to provide the necessary legal protection for these two journalists, to ensure the full respect of their fundamental rights and to release them immediately".

The government has blocked the coverage of the military crackdown in Rakhine.

Both reporters were arrested December 12. Buddhist-majority Myanmar has rejected the accusation.

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