Two Reuters journalists have been arrested in Myanmar for the possession of “important security documents,” local authorities said on Wednesday.
Myanmar reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had been missing since Tuesday evening, the news agency had earlier said.
The pair were arrested under the Official Secrets Act, for allegedly intending “to send important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine State to foreign agencies abroad,” the statement released by the information ministry said.
Rakhine has been in the international spotlight after a brutal, military-led crackdown forced more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the state and cross the border to Bangladesh since August.
"@Reuters reporters @walone4 and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reporting on events of global importance in @Myanmar, and we learned today that they have been arrested in connection with their work." @stephenjadler
— CPJ (@pressfreedom) December 13, 2017
A photo showed the handcuffed reporters with documents displayed before them.
Reuters global communications chief Abbe Serphos said: “We are urgently seeking more information about the circumstances of their arrest and their current situation.”
Before joining the agency, Wa Lone, 31, worked at the English language newspaper The Myanmar Times. Kyaw Soe Oo has worked for the company since September, the agency said.
The government statement said that action will also be taken against two policemen who had recently returned from duty in northern Rakhine.
— Lotte Leicht (@LotteLeicht1) December 13, 2017
Since Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in 2016 after decades of junta rule, media advocates have pointed to little progress on freedom of expression, with online defamation cases skyrocketing compared to the previous military-backed administration.
In October a Burmese journalist, two reporters from Malaysia and Singapore and their driver were arrested in the capital Naypidaw for flying a drone over parliament and sentenced to two months in prison while awaiting additional charges.
Many areas of the country are out of bounds to journalists, including much of Rakhine.