Reuters journalists charged with violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo, also known as Moe Aung, looks out from a police van after a court appearance, last December 27, 2017, outside Yangon. (AP)
Updated 10 January 2018
0

Reuters journalists charged with violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act

BANGKOK: Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two journalists from the Reuters news agency on Wednesday with violating the Official Secrets Act, signaling the case will go forward despite international condemnation.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested December 12 after police accused them of violating the colonial-era law by acquiring “important secret papers” from two policemen. The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where security forces are blamed for rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims that sparked the exodus of some 650,000 people to Bangladesh.
Dozens of journalists wearing black waited outside the court Wednesday to protest the arrest of their colleagues, who were led into the court smiling and giving the thumbs up sign despite heavy handcuffs on their wrists.
“This is unacceptable,” Wa Lone said from the back of a police truck after the brief hearing. “I want to tell you that that they are charging us like this to stop us finding the truth. Their actions are wrong and unfair.”

The journalists’ lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said the prosecutor formally indicted the pair and they now face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
Than Zaw Aung said he appealed for the two to be immediately released on bail, but the judge said he would review that request and rule at the next hearing on Jan. 23.
“We are still far from the verdict,” he said.
Rights and media groups have criticized Myanmar’s new civilian government led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for continuing to use colonial-era laws to threaten and imprison journalists. Such laws were widely used by the military junta that previously ruled the country to muzzle critics and the media.
Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said he was “extremely disappointed” by the charges and again called for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to be released immediately.
“We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom,” Adler said in a statement. “Our colleagues should be allowed to return to their jobs reporting on events in Myanmar.”
Their detention has caused an international outcry. After they were detained, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the arrests showed how press freedom was deteriorating in Myanmar, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for their immediate release.
“A free press is critical to a free society_the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable,” former President Bill Clinton tweeted Monday. “The Reuters journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned Wednesday’s decision to charge the journalists.
“These criminal charges represent a giant step backward for press freedom in Myanmar,” said Shawn Crispin, the group’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The jailing of journalists shows that Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, despite its democratic mandate, is following in the repressive footsteps of her military government predecessors. And by targeting a high-profile news organization like Reuters, it shows no journalist is safe to report on sensitive stories in Myanmar.”


UK calls on social media firms to better protect children

Updated 22 April 2018
0

UK calls on social media firms to better protect children

LONDON: Britain’s health secretary says the government will introduce new laws targeting online social media companies if they don’t do more to protect children.
In a strongly-worded letter to Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Twitter and others, Jeremy Hunt said their failure to prevent young children using social media and exposing children to its “harmful emotional side effects” was “unacceptable and irresponsible.”
Hunt said Sunday he was particularly concerned about the lack of age verification measures, with thousands breaching minimum user age rules.
He gave the companies a week to set out steps they are taking to cut underage use, prevent cyberbullying, and promote limited screen time.
Hunt last year attacked Facebook for releasing a version aimed at children, telling the company to “stay away from my kids.”