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Arrest of Reuters journalists shows erosion of press freedom in Myanmar: UN

Arrest of Reuters journalists shows erosion of press freedom in Myanmar: UN
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YANGON: The arrest of two Reuters journalists in Yangon this week was a signal that press freedom is shrinking in Myanmar and the international community must do all it can to get them released, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.

Guterres said his main concern over Myanmar was the "dramatic violations of human rights" during a military crackdown in Rakhine State that forced more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country for southern Bangladesh, and the arrest of the journalists was probably related.
"It is clearly a concern in relation to the erosion of press freedom in the country," he told a news conference in Tokyo, referring to the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been working on stories about the strife in Rakhine State.
"And probably the reason why these journalists were arrested is because they were reporting on what they have seen in relation to this massive human tragedy," he added.
Myanmar's Ministry of Information said in a statement on Wednesday that the Reuters journalists and two policemen faced charges under the British colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The 1923 law carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
The reporters "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media", the ministry said in its statement, which was accompanied by a photo of the two reporters in handcuffs.
Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement on Wednesday: "We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom. We call for authorities to release them immediately."
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went missing on Tuesday evening after they had been invited to meet police officials over dinner on the outskirts of Yangon.
The authorities have not confirmed where the journalists are being held and, as of Thursday morning, Reuters had not been formally contacted by officials about their detention.
The British embassy in Yangon expressed deep concern about the arrests, and said in a statement that journalists "must be allowed to work freely and without intimidation".
"We have raised our concerns with the Burmese government, urging them to explain these arrests and allow immediate access to the two journalists," it said.
Myanmar is also known as Burma.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Myanmar said it was "appalled" by the arrests and "gravely concerned" about the state of press freedom in the country.

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