- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Trump administration is calling for the release of two Reuters journalists from custody in Myanmar, where they’re being accused of violating a colonial-era government “secrets act.”

Authorities in the Southeast Asian nation brought formal charges Wednesday against the two journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested last month while attempting to report on the government’s violent campaign against Rohingya Muslims.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the United States is “deeply disappointed” by the charges.”

“The media freedom that is so critical to rule of law and a strong democracy requires that journalists be able to do their jobs,” Ms. Nauert said in a statement Wednesday night. “We reiterate our call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s immediate and unconditional release.”

Prosecutors in Myanmar said Wednesday that the two men had violated the nation’s Official Secrets Act. An NPR report described the act as a colonial-era law that bears a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The journalists are accused of illegally obtained documents from local Myanmar officials in an area where the nation’s military has been accused of engaging in an ethnic cleansing campaign against the minority Rohingya.

As many as 800,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into neighboring Bangladesh in recent months to escape persecution in Myanmar.

Ms. Nauert’s statement Wednesday night came after the European Union also called on the Myanmar authorities to release the two Reuters journalists, who’d been attempting to report on the situation.

Reuters noted that that the 28-nation EU, which is a significant donor to Myanmar, said that the case was an important test for the nation’s commitment to developing democracy after years of military rule.

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