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Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested last week.   © Reuters
Politics

Pressure mounts on Myanmar to free 2 Reuters reporters

UN and EU lead condemnation over detention of men covering Rohingya

YANGON -- Calls for the Myanmar government to immediately release two Reuters journalists who were covering the plight of the country's Rohingya Muslim minority continue to grow in the international community as the reporters have not been seen or heard for about a week now.

"We and their families continue to be denied access to them or to the most basic information about their well-being and whereabouts," wrote Stephen J. Adler, Reuters president and editor-in-chief, calling for the reporters' immediate release in a statement on Monday.

"We expect the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of their rights and to release the journalists as quickly as possible," the European Union said in a statement on the same day. "Freedom of the press and media is the foundation and a cornerstone of any democracy."

"Probably the reason why these journalists were arrested is because they were reporting on what they have seen in relation to this massive human tragedy," Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, said Friday. "It is clearly a concern in relation to the erosion of press freedom in the country," he noted in a news conference in Tokyo.

The U.S., U.K. and Japan have also denounced the Myanmar authorities.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested in Yangon Dec. 12 for possessing internal documents from security forces, which carried out security sweeps against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in western Myanmar.

The journalists were invited to dinner with police officers but did not return. A text message was sent from Wa Lone to Reuters' Myanmar bureau chief saying, "I have been arrest," before contact was lost.

The government authorized the police to proceed with a case against the journalists Monday, according to Reuters. The reporters have not been allowed to communicate with their families or a lawyer since their arrest one week ago.

A civilian government came to power in Myanmar in 2011 after decades of military rule. The new government lifted the ban on private and foreign newspapers the next year. Freedom of the press has gradually improved in the country, with the U.S. and European nations helping train journalists.

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