GENEVA – United Nations human rights experts demanded on Wednesday that a Myanmar court drop charges against two Reuters reporters.
The journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were arrested in December last year, and were formally charged on Monday with illegally obtaining state secrets while covering the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, violating the Official Secrets Act of 1923, a colonial-era law.
They face a prison sentence of up to 14 years if found guilty.
Lone and Soe Oo were investigating the Myanmar army’s operations against a Rohingya rebel group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, since a series of police outposts were attacked by ARSA militants in August 2017.
The offensive led to the exodus of 700,000 members of the mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority to neighboring Bangladesh, where they have been sheltered in increasingly overcrowded refugee camps.
“We strongly reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and that all charges be dropped,” the 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, Mr. David Kaye, said in a statement released Wednesday.
“The prosecution criminalises investigative journalism reporting on human rights violations in the Rakhine State, issues of the highest public interest,” the statement said.