YANGON, Myanmar (UPDATED) – A Myanmar court on Thursday, February 1, denied bail to two Reuters journalists charged under a secrecy act that could see them face up to 14 years in jail, in a case that has sparked outcry over shrinking media freedom.
Myanmar nationals Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, are accused of possessing classified documents thought to relate to the violent military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The crackdown in northern Rakhine state has forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh since August, many carrying stories of rape, mass murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s army.
“The pair can’t be granted bail according to the law and the court has decided not to give them bail,” judge Ye Lwin told the Yangon court.
The journalists, who have been in custody since December, say they were given the papers by two policemen who had invited them to dinner in the outskirts of Yangon.
As they left the restaurant, they say they were arrested before they even had a chance to look at the documents.
Thursday’s bail decision was crucial as pre-trial hearings are expected to drag on for several months before the court officially decides whether to take on the case or not.
The pair are now expected to remain in jail throughout that period.
The charge is not a bailable offence, but the court had discretion to grant bail if it deemed that their detention had been unlawful. – Rappler.com