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Reuters journalists face court in Myanmar

AFP  |  Yangon 

Two journalists were due in a today where they could be charged under a secrecy that carries up to 14 years in jail, as calls escalate for their release.

nationals Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested a month ago after receiving documents from two policemen during a dinner in

They were detained under the colonial-era Official after they left the restaurant for alleged possession of classified documents obtained "by deception".

The pair had been reporting on the military campaign in Rakhine state that has forced some 655,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee over the border to since August, violence the UN has condemned as ethnic cleansing.

The issue is highly sensitive inside

insists their reporters have done nothing wrong, while their families have suggested the pair were set up.

The US and have led global calls for the journalists to be freed, while late Tuesday repeated its appeal for their immediate release.

"They have done absolutely nothing but carrying out their legitimate work as journalists," said James Gomez, Amnesty International's for and the Pacific.

Former US also weighed in on the issue.

"A free press is critical to a free society-the detention of journalists anywhere is unacceptable," he tweeted on Monday.

"The journalists being held in Myanmar should be released immediately."

The case has cast a spotlight on Myanmar's troubled transition to democracy after nearly five decades of military rule.

It touches on both slumping press freedom and the Rohingya crisis, two issues that have raised questions over the country's ability to shake off the legacy of junta rule.

Much of the Buddhist-majority population supports the in what it calls a legitimate campaign against Rohingya militants after attacks against border police killed about a dozen.

The military has severely restricted access to northern Rakhine state to journalists, and observers.

The Reuters reporters were held incommunicado for two weeks without access to lawyers, family or colleagues before a brief appearance to extend their remand for a further two weeks.

They must either be charged at Wednesday's hearing or released.

Reuters has vociferously denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their reporters, defending their right to report on an issue of global significance.

A slew of legal cases against journalists have compounded disappointment among those hoping the civilian government of would usher in a new era of freedom.

Her administration shares power with an that still controls all security policy and other key levers of government.

Suu Kyi's time in office has also been dominated by the Rohingya crisis, with criticism pouring in from around the globe over her refusal to denounce the army's crackdown and allow in international investigators.

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

First Published: Wed, January 10 2018. 09:50 IST