Myanmar faces mounting calls for release of Reuters journalists

UNITED NATIONS/YANGON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was demanding “the immediate release” of two Reuters reporters arrested in Myanmar “or information as to the circumstances around their disappearance.”The United States joined mounting demands for the reporters to be freed. The United Nations, United Kingdom, Sweden and Bangladesh, among others, have denounced the arrests.

The journalists, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, went missing on Tuesday after being invited to meet police officials over dinner on the northern outskirts of the city of Yangon. They had worked on stories about a military crackdown in Rakhine state, which has triggered the flight of more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh since late August.

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As of Friday, Reuters had not been formally contacted by officials about the detention of the reporters. The Ministry of Information has said that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,” and released a photo of the pair in handcuffs.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler has called for the immediate release of the journalists, saying in a statement on Wednesday that the global news organization was “outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom.”

A court official in the northern district of Yangon where they were detained said that no paperwork had been filed relating to either journalist. The official said that usually cases are lodged 20-30 days after an arrest as suspects can be held in custody for up to 28 days without being charged.On Wednesday, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information said the reporters and two policemen faced charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act, though officials have since disclosed that they have not been charged. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

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