Reuters reporters accused under Official Secrets Act due in Myanmar court

Journalists stage a rally during the trial of two Reuters journalists near the court, in this Jan. 10, 2018 photo, on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Reuters reporters accused under Official Secrets Act due in Myanmar court

YANGON: Two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar are due to appear in court on Tuesday, when a judge could review a bail request for the pair accused of violating the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act.
Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in Rakhine state, where an army crackdown on insurgents since the end of August has triggered the flight of 688,000 Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.
The reporters were detained on Dec. 12 after they had been invited to meet police officers over dinner in the country’s largest city, Yangon.
“There will be an argument for bail from both the defense lawyers and prosecutors,” said Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer representing the two journalists.
The prosecution has previously objected to the bail application.
The court would then hear evidence from the first police witness, who would be cross-examined by defense lawyers, Khin Maung Zaw said.
The Ministry of Information has cited police as saying the two journalists were “arrested for possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine State and security forces.” It has said they “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.”
Reuters President and Editor-In-Chief Stephen J. Adler has said the court’s decision to pursue charges was “a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom.”
The pair last appeared in court on Jan. 10, when prosecutors sought charges against them under the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
The reporters have told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some documents at a restaurant by two policemen they had not met before.
Government officials from some of the world’s major nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as top UN officials, have called for the reporters to be freed.
Former US President Bill Clinton has called for the immediate release of the journalists.
The two journalists were accused under Section 3.1 (c) of the Official Secrets Act, which dates back to 1923 when Myanmar, then known as Burma, was a province of British India.


China sacks regional officials as vaccine scandal mounts

Updated 4 min 36 sec ago
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China sacks regional officials as vaccine scandal mounts

  • The Chinese government has been struggling to shore up public confidence in the pharmaceutical sector
  • China is regularly hit by scandals involving sub-par or toxic food, drugs and other products

BEIJING: China’s Communist Party has sacked a dozen provincial and local officials and vowed to punish a pharmaceutical firm over a vaccine scandal that inflamed public fears over the safety of domestically produced drugs.
The government has been struggling to shore up public confidence in the pharmaceutical sector following the revelation last month that a major Chinese manufacturer of rabies vaccines was found to have fabricated records and was ordered to cease production.
The government has said the suspect rabies vaccines did not enter the market but the case provoked unusually strong outrage online from consumers fed up with recurring product-safety scandals, particularly in the drug sector.
The CEO of the company in question, Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology in the northeast province of Jilin, has been arrested along with 14 other people in connection with the scandal.
The first political casualties fell on Thursday as a dozen officials were removed from office, including Jilin’s deputy governor Jin Yuhui, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Jin was in charge of monitoring the safety of food and pharmaceuticals.
The decision to sack him was made at a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s elite seven-member standing committee, led by President Xi Jinping.
“Those who break the law and jeopardize public safety, notably in the matter of vaccines and medicines, should be severely punished,” Xinhua reported, citing the meeting’s conclusions.
The standing committee also asked for the resignations of three other officials: The vice chairman of a provincial committee, the mayor of Jilin’s capital, Changchun, and the deputy head of the State Administration for Market Regulation.
Another eight provincial and city officials were removed from office by the regional leadership.
The former deputy chief of the now defunct China Food and Drug Administration will be investigated by the party’s anti-graft agency, Xinhua said.
Another 35 non-centrally administered officials “will be held accountable,” the agency said without elaborating.
China is regularly hit by scandals involving sub-par or toxic food, drugs and other products, despite repeated promises by the government to address the problem.
Since the latest case came to light, the authorities have announced a nationwide inspection of laboratories producing vaccines, but many Chinese parents say they no longer have confidence in the medicines administered to their children.
China’s cabinet, the State Council, held a meeting Thursday on the investigation into the latest case.
The company will face a fine and all of its “illegal profits” will be confiscated, the officials Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
“In its reckless pursuit of profits, the company committed unlawful acts of grave nature,” Xinhua said in its report on the meeting.
The case exposed supervision failures by local governments and regulatory agencies, it said.
“We must conduct thorough safety checks on vaccine production... and close all loopholes in the vaccine regulatory mechanism,” Premier Li Keqiang said at a meeting of China’s State Council, according to Xinhua.
“Efforts should be made to build public confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines made in China,” Li said.