Bangkok, December 13, 2017--Two Reuters reporters were arrested on Tuesday evening by police in Myanmar's former capital of Yangon, Reuters and other news outlets reported. The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for the reporters' immediate and unconditional release.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay confirmed on Wednesday that reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been detained, but did not immediately provide details of the circumstances of their arrest, Reuters reported.
"We call on local authorities to immediately, unconditionally release Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "These arrests come amid a widening crackdown which is having a grave impact on the ability of journalists to cover a story of vital global importance."
Stephen J. Adler, President and Editor-In-Chief of Reuters, said in a statement today, "Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reporting on events of global importance in Myanmar, and we learned today that they have been arrested in connection with their work. We are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom. We call for authorities to release them immediately."
Local publication Frontier reported that Yangon's Htaukkyant Police Station had accepted charges under the 1923 Official Secrets Act against the reporters filed by an unnamed adjutant military officer. The Reuters report indicated the news organization has not received any information about charges.
Police allegedly found military reports related to recent security operations in the country's western Rakhine State in the journalists' possession, according to the news reports . Charges under the law allow for 14-year prison terms for unlawful possession of military documents, the reports said.
Both journalists have recently reported on Rakhine State's refugee crisis, where over 600,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled military 'clearance' operations into neighboring Bangladesh, news reports said.
The government spokesman said authorities would also take action against policemen involved in the case, without providing details, the Reuters report said.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The fourth paragraph of this alert has been updated to include a statement from Reuters.]