Myanmar arrests two Reuters journalists

Rani Begum 28 yrs old (left) and her daughter Sadiya Begum 10yrs old (right) at the entrance to a temporary shelter inside Camp 1 home to 71 Rohingya families that fled the violence in Myanmar in 2012. Rani??????s husband was killed by the Myanmar police and his body was found 3 days later in several pieces. Her daughter Sumiya was also wounded by a machete attack in Myanmar 5 years ago, she was 7 at the time. They fled Myanmar for Bangladesh then to India. Rani occasionally works as a domestic cleaner earning approx 1500 to 2000 rupee??????s a month. The Indian government is threatening to deport Rohingya refugee??????s. Balapur, Cyberabad, Hyderabad. 22nd September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Rani Begum 28 yrs old (left) and her daughter Sadiya Begum 10yrs old (right) at the entrance to a temporary shelter inside Camp 1 home to 71 Rohingya families that fled the violence in Myanmar in 2012. Rani??????s husband was killed by the Myanmar police and his body was found 3 days later in several pieces. Her daughter Sumiya was also wounded by a machete attack in Myanmar 5 years ago, she was 7 at the time. They fled Myanmar for Bangladesh then to India. Rani occasionally works as a domestic cleaner earning approx 1500 to 2000 rupee??????s a month. The Indian government is threatening to deport Rohingya refugee??????s. Balapur, Cyberabad, Hyderabad. 22nd September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Bangkok: Myanmar's government has charged two Reuters journalists who had been leaked documents on brutal military-led attacks on Rohingya Muslims in the country's Rakhine State.

Reuters said it was "outraged" by the arrests of Wa Lone, 31 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, who have been held under the country's draconian Official Secrets Act that carries penalties of up to 14 years jail.

"The two journalists obtained the documents by deception from the two policemen who came back from Rakhine state after serving security duties," Myanmar police said in a statement.

The United States embassy in Myanmar said it was "deeply concerned" about the arrests and urged the government to allow access to the pair.

"For a democracy to succeed journalists must be allowed to do their jobs," it said.

The European Union has also voiced its concern.

More than 625,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since August after Myanmar's military and vigilante Buddhists rampaged through villages, killing, raping and burning them in what the United Nations says amounts to "textbook ethnic cleansing" and "very likely" crimes against humanity.

A humanitarian emergency is unfolding in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Myanmar's Information Ministry said in a statement the reporters "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with the foreign media."

The ministry's Facebook page showed them in handcuffs standing behind a table with documents, mobile telephones and currency.

Irrawaddy online news said Wa Lone was found in the possession of a Myanmar Border Guard document that detailed security force numbers and the amount of ammunition they had used in the first wave of atrocities in late August, after Muslim insurgents had attacked 30 police posts.

Myanmar's military has denied killing any innocent civilians.

Reuters said Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe, an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist from the state's capital Sittwe, went missing after being invited to meet police officials over dinner in Yangon.

Two policemen have also been arrested.

Stephen Adler, editor-in-chief of Reuters, said "we are outraged by this blatant attack on press freedom".

Myanmar journalists have faced increasing harassment this year under the government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been widely condemned for failing to defend 1.1 million Rohingya who were living in Rakhine.

Hatred of Muslims has swept the Buddhist-majority country under Suu Kyi's leadership.

Several Myanmar reporters have been arrested in recent months.

Two reporters from Malaysia and Singapore and their driver were jailed for flying a drone over Myanmar's parliament.

In one prominent case, Myanmar Now news editor Swe Win was charged with insulting a Buddhist monk who praised the killer of a Muslim government lawyer.

The trial is still ongoing.

Shawn Crispin, senior south-east Asia representative for the Committee to Project Journalists, said the arrests "come amid a widening crackdown which is having a grave impact on the ability of journalists to cover a story of vital global importance."

The Turnbull government has resisted growing calls to end the Australian Defence Force's training and support to Myanmar's military in response to the atrocities.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia is "deeply concerned" by the violence but has avoided directly condemning either Suu Kyi's government or the Myanmar military.

This story Myanmar arrests two Reuters journalists first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.