Reuters journalists appear in court, easing fears for their safety

Reuters journalists appear in court, easing fears for their safety

Two weeks after they were detained and held incommunicado, a pair of Reuters journalists appeared in a Yangon court on Wednesday and were remanded for a second 14-day period.

The two men — Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — are set to meet with their legal team tomorrow at Insein Prison to discuss their situation, according to their lawyers. Wednesday marked the first legal proceedings made publically known in advance, and many have criticised authorities’ lack of transparency in handling the case.

Their appearance before the Mingalardon Township Court also offered the first opportunity for family, lawyers and colleagues to see them since they were arrested on 12 December. They are expected to face trial on charges under the Official Secrets Act that carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, after they were apprehended allegedly in possession of sensitive government documents.

Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer for the pair, told DVB on Wednesday that the defence team planned to meet with Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, to find out more about their detention and the events leading up to it, as well as discuss the coming trial.

“They were detained while they were doing their jobs as journalists. I can say that the current situation is good because we have met them today and we have found out where they are being detained,” he said.

Family members of the detained journalists said they had not been mistreated in custody and are in good health. Their next hearing is expected to be held at Yangon’s Northern District Court on 10 January.

Following Wednesday’s court appearance, Wa Lone said he and his colleague would face the charges defiantly, insisting that they were merely doing their jobs as journalists when they were detained earlier this month on the outskirts of the commercial capital.

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“We are not guilty, and we have never violated ethics,” he said.

Pan Ei Mon, the wife of Wa Lone, said she was relieved after a two-week period in which her husband was held incommunicado and his whereabouts were unknown. She plans to meet with him again tomorrow at Yangon’s Insein Prison.

“I’m very happy today. I wish that he and his colleague would be freed like the case of Aung Naing Soe,” she said, referring to another high-profile case involving journalists, in which police this week signaled that they would drop the charges.

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