Myanmar police to drop charges against journalists jailed for filming with drone

Myanmar police to drop charges against journalists jailed for filming with drone

Myanmar police to drop charges against journalists jailed for filming with drone

Updated 27 December 2017, 17:00 AEDT

Myanmar police say they will drop pending charges against two journalists who were jailed in November for violating an aircraft law by filming with a drone.

Myanmar police say they will drop pending charges against two journalists working for Turkey's state broadcaster, plus their interpreter and driver, who were jailed in November for violating an aircraft law by filming with a drone.

Key points:

  • Four men were jailed in November for violating aircraft law by filming with a drone
  • The case was dropped because the men did not mean to endanger national security
  • Two Reuters journalists remain imprisoned after arrest in Myanmar this month

Cameraman Lau Hon Meng from Singapore, reporter Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, Aung Naing Soe — a local journalist who was interpreting for the pair — and driver Hla Tin were detained by police on October 27 near Myanmar's parliament building in the capital Naypyitaw.

They are currently each serving a two-month prison sentence under a colonial-era aircraft law, but all four still face further charges for importing the drone.

The two foreign nationals have also been charged with an immigration offence.

Police Lieutenant Tun Tun Win and an immigration officer — the complainants — appeared in a Naypyitaw courtroom on Tuesday and asked that the court drop the charges.

Tun Tun Win said higher police officials had ordered the case be dropped because the four did not mean to endanger national security by flying the drone.

Additionally, he said, the decision was intended "to forward the relationship between countries", referring to the two journalists' home countries, Singapore and Malaysia.

A law officer — the government's prosecutor in the case — was expected to tell the court the charges were formally dropped in another hearing set for Thursday, defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

"The higher authorities already instructed to terminate with good intention, but the procedure can only be accomplished on that day [Thursday]," the lawyer said.

The four are set to complete their sentences under the aircraft act on January 9, but may be released earlier for good behaviour, he added.

The case had raised concerns over freedom of the press in Myanmar, where a civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took power last year but the military retains control of security matters, including the police.

Reuters journalists also held

Two Reuters journalists were arrested on December 12 after they went to meet police officers for dinner on the outskirts of Myanmar's largest city Yangon.

Reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27 completed two weeks in detention on Tuesday.

A court in Myanmar today agreed to remand them in custody for a second 14-day period as authorities continued a probe into allegations that they breached the nation's Official Secrets Act, according to the lawyer for the reporters.

They were brought to a court in Yangon for the brief proceedings and allowed to meet their families, colleagues and lawyer for the first time since being arrested.

The two journalists had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in the western state of Rakhine, where an estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on militants.

The Official Secrets Act carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Reuters