Judge Ohn Myint has extended detention of two reporters with Reuters on allegations of violating the State Secrets Act.
Ohn, who spoke during a court siting on Wednesday, said the accused persons will remain in custody until 10 January, stressing that the interrogation is still ongoing.
Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were first apprehended on 12 December and ordered to be remanded for a period of two weeks to allow prosecutors ample time for investigations.
The prisoners were accused of acquiring “important secret documents” from two unnamed police officers.
According to a report from The China Post, Wednesday’s court hearing turned emotional as it was the first time family members of the accused journalists were allowed to see them. Some relatives wept uncontrollably.
The police officers who allegedly connived with Lone and Oo previously held service positions in Rakhine state, where the police and military committed widespread atrocities as over 700,000 members of the Rohingya minority were forced to leave the location. The violence lasted over a month.
Most of the lucky citizens fled to Indonesia but thousands were caught in the line of fire, with a large number of the womenfolk falling victims to rapist.
Speaking during before the emotional court trial, Wa Lone told newsmen that he and his partner were only doing their jobs as journalists.
‘We did not violate journalism ethics,’ he said as both were led from a police van into a courtroom located in Yangon.
While the U.S. government, European Union and U.N. officials have called for the incarcerated journalists’ release, most reporters in Myanmar who were in the courtroom all dressed in black to show solidarity with their colleagues.
Thar Lun Zaung Htet, leader of a local pressure group campaigning for freedom of the press, said it is unfair that the two journalists have been charged under the official secrets act while doing their jobs as reporters seeking tangible information.
‘This sort of harrassment is the same we suffered under the military government…It’s a shame we have to face it in a democratic setting,’ Htet lamented.
Lone and Oo are facing a maximum penalty of 14 years behind bars.
The two police officers who had dealings with Lone and his partner were not present in court.
Over 10 local and foreign correspondents have been arrested in Myanmar this 2017, including one reporter with TRT, a Turkish state broadcaster.
Mayanmar was formerly known as Burma; the country gained independence in 2015 after suffering harsh military leadership for 50 years. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, was elected president but there are concerns over the country’s commitment to true democracy. The military still wield exceedingly great power over key sectors and levels of power, a situation which has been criticized in the international community.