Myanmar charges Reuters reporters under Official Secrets Act

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A court in Myanmar has charged two jailed Reuters news agency journalists with obtaining secret state documents, moving the landmark press freedom case into its trial stage after six months of preliminary hearings.

Yangon district judge Ye Lwin on Monday charged reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, with breaching the colonial-era Official Secret Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The reporters pleaded not guilty.

The two journalists were detained in December for possessing material relating to security operations in conflict-hit Rakhine state.

Myanmar has faced global condemnation and accusations of extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing and genocide as some 700,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh following a military crackdown “on insurgents”.

The two reporters have been held in Yangon’s Insein prison since their arrest while facing hearings to determine whether the case will go to trial, with witnesses giving testimony.

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In April, their lawyers asked to dismiss the case, citing in part troubling discrepancies in witness statements, but the motion was swiftly rejected in a Yangon courtroom packed with supporters, family and media.

The pair had been investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya men on September 2 in the Rakhine village of Inn Din, which was carried out by security forces and local villagers.

The military admitted that the atrocity took place and Reuters later published the story while the reporters were in prison.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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