NEW YORK—Ahead of an expected court appearance on January 10, PEN America calls for Myanmar authorities to immediately release detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Moe Aung (also known as Kyaw Soe Oo).

Arrested under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, the journalists are being held on the grounds of allegedly possessing internal security reports related to the ongoing fighting in Rakhine State between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The pair are set to appear in court on Wednesday, January 10, at which time the prosecutor could request that they face formal charges in the case. If ultimately convicted, they face up to 14 years in prison. 

“The ongoing detention of Wa Lone and Moe Aung, coupled with the threat of serious criminal charges being levied against them, is a blatant attempt to intimidate the press from covering important stories that are of vital national interest,” said Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “We call on the government of Myanmar to drop the legal charges against and immediately release Wa Lone and Moe Aung, and to allow journalists to do their jobs without fear of similar repercussions.”

PEN America remains concerned about the worsening environment for free expression in Myanmar. In June, three reporters were arrested and detained for several months under the Unlawful Associations Act, and there has been an alarming rise in attempted prosecutions of online speech under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act. PEN America’s 2015 report, Unfinished Freedom: A Blueprint for the Future of Free Expression in Myanmar, noted the urgent need to reform a range of restrictive laws still on the books that are now being used to chill speech and investigative journalism under the new government.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: sedkins@pen.org+1.646.779.4830