Widespread demands to release Reuters reporters

Published: December 16, 2017 16:55:34 | Updated: December 17, 2017 11:53:52

Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. - Reuters Photo

The United States joined mounting demands for the immediate release of two Reuters reporters arrested in Myanmar.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was demanding immediate release of two journalists.

The journalists, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, went missing on Tuesday after being invited to meet police officials over dinner on the northern outskirts of the city of Yangon. They had worked on stories about a military crackdown in Rakhine state, which has triggered the flight of more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh since late August.

As of Friday, Reuters had not been formally contacted by officials about the detention of the reporters.

The Ministry of Information has said that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media,” and released a photo of the pair in handcuffs.

The United Nations, United Kingdom, Sweden and Bangladesh, among others, have denounced the arrests.

The leaders of the US Senate Human Rights Caucus, Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Chris Coons, said they were "gravely concerned" about the arrests.

The United Nations, British Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field said, "We will make it clear in the strongest possible terms that we feel that they need to be released at the earliest possible opportunity."

The nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists also called for the reporters' unconditional release."

"These 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," it said.

Reuters says, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the arrests were a "threat to a democratic and peaceful development of Myanmar and that region".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that the arrests were a signal that press freedom is shrinking in Myanmar and the international community must do all it can to get the reporters released.

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