Myanmar Holds 5 Reporters Captive

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  • TEMPO/Supriyantho Khafid

    TEMPO/Supriyantho Khafid

    TEMPO.CO, Yangon - Myanmar has detained several journalists after they published allegations of a military facility producing chemical weapons. Five journalists including the chief executive of the Unity Weekly News were arrested on Friday and Saturday.

    "Family members were informed last night by the authorities that they could visit them in (Yangon's) Insein prison and told to hire lawyers," said Unity editor Aung Thura Ko Ko.

    "They have been charged under the official secrets act," he added.

    Unity Weekly quoted testimony from local people and workers and included pictures of the buildings. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raised alarm about the developments. "The fact that journalists can be charged with revealing state secrets shows how desperately Burma (Myanmar) needs meaningful legal reform," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia.

    "Weapons proliferation issues are central to Burma's (Myanmar's) political narrative and journalists should not be threatened or arrested for reporting on topics of national and international importance," he said.

    In January last year, Myanmar denied accusations it had used chemical weapons against ethnic minority rebels in the state of Kachin.

    "Our military never uses chemical weapons and we have no intention to use them at all. I think the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) is accusing us wrongly," presidential spokesman Ye Htut said at the time.

    The US Treasury in December leveled sanctions against a Myanmar military official and three businesses owners in the country for trading arms with North Korea. The sanctions forbid any US person or entity from doing business with those who are blacklisted.

    CHANNEL NEWS ASIA | NATALIA SANTI