Press group says Myanmar journalists arrested over documents

Reuters reporter Ko Wa Lone, left, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo.
Updated 13 December 2017
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Press group says Myanmar journalists arrested over documents

BANGKOK: The Myanmar Press Council said Wednesday that police have arrested two journalists working for an international news organization on suspicion of possessing “secret police documents” related to the ongoing refugee crisis in Rakhine state.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, employees of the Reuters news agency, were arrested late Tuesday and charged with violating the country’s colonial era Official Secrets Act after police said the two were found in possession of copies of documents from officials in Muangdaw district, said Myint Kyaw, a member of the media body that investigates and settles press disputes.
Officers at the police station where the two were believed to have been charged denied that any arrest had been made.
Reuters said in a statement that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been missing since late Tuesday night.
“We have filed a missing person’s report and are doing everything we can to locate them,” the statement said.
The US Embassy said it was “deeply concerned by the highly irregular arrests of two Reuters reporters.”
“For a democracy to succeed, journalists need to be able to do their jobs freely,” it said in a statement. It urged the government to allow immediate access to the journalists.
The press council used to be government appointed, and it’s unclear whether it is fully independent under the country’s new civilian government.
Northern Rakhine state is the epicenter of the Myanmar military’s brutal security operation that has forced more than 625,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The campaign launched in August in response to attacks on police outposts has been condemned by the United Nations as “ethnic cleansing” and those fleeing have described widespread rights abuses by security forces.
The military, which is charge of security in northern Rakhine, and the civilian government have barred most journalists and international observers from independently traveling to the region.
The Officials Secrets Act, dating back to the 1920s, makes violations punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Journalists in Myanmar are facing renewed harassment, with several arrested in recent months. Two foreign journalists along with two of their Myanmar associates are currently awaiting trial on new charges after already being sentenced to jail for illegally flying a drone over parliament.
“Media freedom in the country is getting worse and arresting journalists is more and more common these days, and this shows that the authorities are clearly ignoring media laws,” said Robert Sann Aung, a human rights lawyer.


Iraqis fill the Mosul airwaves after Daesh radio silence

Updated 22 June 2018
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Iraqis fill the Mosul airwaves after Daesh radio silence

  • After Iraqi forces drove the militants from Mosul, One FM was launched and Mosul FM started broadcasting from the nearby region of Dohuk
  • On the streets of Mosul, the radio shows bring a distraction from the struggles of life in the war-scarred city

MOSUL: During the Daesh group’s rule in Mosul, radio stations were banned and replaced with broadcasts of militant propaganda. Today, young Iraqis are filling the city’s airwaves.
One budding presenter is Nour Tai, who at 16 years old faces the microphone with a confident tone and a professional style.
She hosts a weekly program on One FM, a Mosul station launched in February that broadcasts a mix of music, entertainment and current affairs debates.
Her career began a year ago thanks to a talent show organized by Al-Ghad, a station in the Kurdish city of Irbil which hosted many of those displaced from Iraq’s second city.
She said at the time that she was passionate about radio because “it touches everyone.”
“I want to be part of it,” she said.
She now sits in the One FM studio, accompanied by her father, as a degenerative illness left her blind three years ago.
She says her aim is to “give people hope, especially those who suffer from a handicap.”
“I want to tell everyone that we can all contribute something and that we can realize our dreams,” she says from the cramped studio.
The launch of One FM came six months after Iraqi forces declared victory over Daesh following three years of brutal militant rule in Iraq’s second city.
Daesh had shut down independent radio stations and anyone caught tuning in could expect severe physical punishment.
The emergence of stations such as One FM is a step in the city’s transformation since Daesh was ousted following a vast, months-long operation.
Young presenters are busy 24 hours a day, producing and broadcasting shows which are also filmed for broadcast on the radio’s website and social media accounts.
The channel is run by volunteers who bought the necessary equipment by pooling their savings, some selling their own belongings to fund the station.
Yassir Al-Qaissi, One FM’s head of communications, says their aim is to “denounce violence and extremism, and broaden people’s minds.”
There is a need to “erase the terrorist ideology and end the sickness of our society, such as sectarianism and racism,” the 28-year-old says.
Ahmad Al-Jaffal, 30, says the militant occupation “created a vacuum of thought.”
“With my program, I try to promote ideas of coexistence, of mutual understanding, and of acceptance of the other,” says Jaffal, who worked as a journalist prior to the Daesh takeover in 2014.
One FM is not the only ambitious new station on the local airwaves.
Mosul residents who took refuge in Irbil after the Daesh takeover of their city launched two stations: Al-Ghad and Start FM.
After Iraqi forces drove the militants from Mosul, One FM was launched and Mosul FM started broadcasting from the nearby region of Dohuk.
That means it has more radio stations than the two state-run channels it had under former dictator Saddam Hussein.
All currently broadcast analogue signals and can only reach Mosul and its surroundings.
The US invasion in 2003 brought a multitude of new options for listeners, although these were co-opted by American occupying forces or political parties.
The period before the Daesh offensive was risky for journalists and presenters in Mosul, who were regularly targeted by Al-Qaeda and other militant groups.
Mohammad Salem, a sociologist, says the new stations will need government supervision to ensure that this time they are not misused for political or religious purposes — “especially as some of their funding sources are unknown.”
On the streets of Mosul, the radio shows bring a distraction from the struggles of life in the war-scarred city.
Taxi driver Mohammad Qassem, 27, says the music and entertainment shows are a welcome addition to his long days.
“We can finally listen to all the songs that IS deprived us of for three years,” he says happily, before pushing the volume up to maximum on his car radio.