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Human Rights Commission says it cannot help detained journalists

Reuters journalists Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon on 11 December 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) says it is powerless to intervene in the case involving two Reuters journalists who were arrested on December 12 and charged under Burma’s Official Secrets Act.

The pair were apprehended in possession of sensitive photographs and documents thought to relate to the Rohingya Crisis in Rakhine State.

Sitt Myaing, the vice-chairman of MNHRC, told DVB on Thursday that the only thing the Commission can do is urge the government to allow the detained reporters – Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – to meet with their families and lawyers.

“We cannot intervene because the authorities maintain that they acted in accordance with the law,” he said.

The two Burmese journalists face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

The MNHRC today released a statement in response to a letter from Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), calling for them to investigate the case as a violation of human rights. The statement urged the government not to allow the pair to be tortured and to ensure they receive healthcare during their incarceration.

The whereabouts of the two journalists remains unknown, and their families have voiced concerns for their safety.

Yu Lwin Aung, one of the commissioners for the MNHRC, has told DVB that he believes the two men’s human rights have already been violated.

“After charging a person under any section [of the law], he or she has the right to confer with a lawyer. They must also be allowed family visits,” he said. “Otherwise, this is an infringement of their human rights. The authorities need to recognise that.”