Myanmar charges journalists on assignment for Turkish state TV
Myanmar police have charged two foreign journalists working for Turkish state media, along with two Burmese locals, for allegedly breaching import laws after they flew a drone over the country’s parliament.
The men will be held in custody until their first court hearing on charges that carry up to three years in jail or a fine for the import and export of “restricted or banned goods” without obtaining a license.
“We have opened a case against all four - two foreigners and two Burmese. They will be held on remand until Nov. 10,” deputy police colonel Kyaw Moe told AFP.
The foreigners, Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, were detained on Oct. 27 in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw while they were on assignment for Turkish state broadcaster TRT.
The pair was working with well-known Myanmar journalist Aung Naing Soe and a local driver Hla Tin.
TRT said on its website that the network “is in discussions with Myanmar authorities to secure their release. Both journalists had valid visas.”
Myanmar police spokesman Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe told Reuters that the journalists “illegally imported the drone” and all four will be charged under the Export and Import Law.
The law does not specifically refer to drones, but it says that “no person shall export or import restricted, prohibited and banned goods,” and that, “without obtaining license, no person shall export or import the specified goods which is to obtain permission.”
The incident comes as tensions surge between Myanmar and Turkey, which has led criticism of the Southeast Asian nation for its treatment of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Myanmar of incubating “Buddhist terror” and carrying out a genocide against the Muslim group.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state since late August, running from burning villages they say were set alight by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.
Several journalists have been arrested in Myanmar this year, fuelling fears of an erosion of the press freedoms that blossomed after the end of junta rule in 2011.
Many have been charged with defamation or arrested for reporting on armed rebel groups.
Late on Oct. 27, about 25 police staged an evening raid on the Yangon house of the Myanmar interpreter, well-known domestic reporter Aung Naing Soe, seizing his computer memory sticks and searching documents.
Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had informed the Singaporean and Malaysian embassies about the matter.