Two Myanmar journalists arrested in Bangladesh while reporting on the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis should immediately be released and charges against them dropped, watchdog Global Witness urged today.
Minzayar Oo, an internationally recognized photojournalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian and National Geographic, and his colleague, photographer Hkun Lat, are being charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Section 177 and 419 of the Bangladesh Penal Code for alleged “false impersonation” and providing “false information”. The photographers have been accused of reporting on tourist visas and face up to five years in prison if found guilty.
They entered Bangladesh in early September to report on the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. They were detained on 7 September while on assignment for the German publication GEO magazine and were reportedly denied bail this week.
“We are deeply concerned that journalists are being prevented from doing their jobs and urge the Bangladeshi government to release Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat as a matter of urgency,” said Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Campaign Leader at Global Witness.
“The current crisis in Rakhine State is driving hundreds of thousands of people into Bangladesh as refugees. It is crucial that journalists and those documenting their plight are allowed freedom to access and report on these issues without fear of intimidation or legal repercussions.”
Minzayar Oo is an award-winning journalist known for highlighting human rights and environmental issues in Myanmar. Hkun Lat is an up-and-coming Kachin photographer who has worked with him on a number of projects.
As of Friday night, their lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua had been unable to speak to the journalists and could not account for their welfare. Mr Barua said that a number of Bangladeshi constitutional and legal provisions had been violated in this case, including custodial proceedings.
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