Arrested on 12 December, the two journalists have been held for the past six weeks. At today’s hearing, a judge is to examine a request for their release on bail, a request that was rejected at a previous hearing on 10 January, when they were told they were charged with violating state secrets. Free Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo !Sign the petition
They are facing the possibility of up to 14 years in prison just for trying to find out what is happening in the northwestern state of Rakhine, from which an estimated 690,000 members of the Rohingya community have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
“It is unacceptable that journalists are paying with imprisonment for their professionalism,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “That is why we are asking people to sign this petition demanding the immediate release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.
“They are clearly the victims of a plot designed to intimidate fellow journalists who want to know more about the fate of the Rohingyas. We cannot accept that journalists are being systematically prevented from investigating one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”
Myanmar’s army is suspected by the UN and others of having carried out atrocities against Rakhine state’s Rohingya population since late August, atrocities that are tantamount to “ethnic cleansing”.
Journalists are still being systematically denied access to the area, although they should be completely free to cover implementation of the repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was originally supposed to begin today at the latest.
Bangladesh announced yesterday that the required procedures for respecting this deadline were far from being completed. Most of the refugees are refusing to be sent back to Myanmar until the authorities provide specific guarantees for their safety. Allowing reporters to cover the repatriation process would be the best way to avoid more atrocities leading to a renewed exodus.
In September, RSF urged Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to lift the many restrictions on journalists. Myanmar is still ranked no higher than 131st out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index.