New York, September 15, 2017--Bangladeshi authorities should immediately release two Myanmar journalists who police detained on September 7 and drop all charges against them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Police arrested Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat in Cox's Bazar, a city in Bangladesh, while they were on assignment for the German magazine GEO, the publication's deputy editor-in-chief, Juergen Schaefer, told CPJ today. A court yesterday denied the journalists' request for bail, Schaefer told CPJ. Journalists have been traveling to the city to report on the influx of Rohingya refugees coming from Myanmar.
Police have charged Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat with "false impersonation" and providing "false information," according to reports. Cox's Bazar police chief Ranajit Barua said that the journalists violated immigration rules by reporting in Bangladesh on tourist visas, and could face up to seven years in jail if found guilty, according to news reports. The police chief told Agence France-Presse that Bangladeshi authorities had also accused Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat of espionage.
CPJ's calls to Barua went unanswered. The Cox's Bazar police did not immediately respond to CPJ's email requesting comment.
"The Bangladeshi authorities should not criminalize covering a major world story,"" said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat should be released immediately and all charges against them dropped. Both local and international journalists reporting on the Rohingya story must be allowed to work freely."
Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar's Presidential Office, posted a tweet today saying that the government is asking Bangladesh why the journalists are being held.