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Reuters journalists charged with violating Myanmar law

AP  |  Bangkok 

Prosecutors in formally charged two journalists from the agency today with violating the Official Secrets Act, signaling the case will go forward despite international condemnation.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested December 12 after police accused them of violating the colonial-era by acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen.

The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where security forces are blamed for rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims that sparked the exodus of some 650,000 people to

Than Zaw Aung, the for the journalists, said the formally indicted the pair at today's hearing. They face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Than said he appealed for the two to be immediately released on bail, but the said he would review that request and rule at the next hearing on January 23.

"We are still far from the verdict," he said.

Rights and have criticized Myanmar's new civilian government led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for continuing to use colonial-era laws to threaten and imprison journalists.

Such laws were widely used by the military junta that previously ruled the country to muzzle critics and the media.

Dozens of journalists wearing black waited outside the court today to protest the arrest of their colleagues, who were led into the court with iron chains on their wrists.

Their detention has caused an international outcry. After they were detained, UN said the arrests showed how press freedom was deteriorating in Myanmar, while US called for their immediate release.

"A free press is critical to a free society_the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable," former tweeted Monday. "The journalists being held in should be released immediately."

again called for their immediate release and said the arrests were part of a larger problem in

"These arrests have not happened in a vacuum, but come as authorities are increasingly restricting independent media," James Gomez, the group's for and the Pacific, said in a statement.

"Journalists and media outlets, in particular those who report on 'sensitive topics,' are living with the constant fear of harassment, intimidation or arrest. This clampdown on freedom of speech must end.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 10 2018. 11:35 IST