UN human rights experts on Wednesday expressed “grave concern” after a court in Myanmar officially charged two Reuters journalists under the 1923 Official Secrets Act in connection with their investigations into a massacre at Inn Din village, Rakhine State.
“We strongly reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and that all charges be dropped,” said special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee and special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye.
They said the prosecution criminalises investigative journalism reporting on human rights violations in the Rakhine State, issues of the highest public interest, according to a statement received from Geneva.
The two reporters, who were arrested last December, were charged on Monday with obtaining secret state documents. The Official Secrets Act carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.
The special rapporteurs previously have urged greater press freedom after the journalists’ detention and called on the Government of Myanmar to drop the prosecution charges.
“We are also deeply troubled that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are held in deplorable conditions – incommunicado at the outset of their detention, and now lack access to medical treatment and sleep deprivation.”
The UN experts urged Myanmar to respect press freedom and the public’s right to know, so that journalists can carry out their duties freely and safely.
They also called for the review and ultimate revision of the Official Secrets Act in line with Myanmar’s obligations under international law.
The special rapporteurs will continue to be in contact with the Myanmar authorities concerning the case, reads the statement.