Myanmar Releases Journalists Imprisoned for Flying a Drone Near Parliament

Leslie Hanson
December 29, 2017

Two journalists and their two local staff were released from a Myanmar prison Friday, two months after their arrest for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament.

The crew was shooting a documentary in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw.

A court on Thursday dropped additional charges against them, their local fixer and freelance photographer Aung Naing Soe and driver Hla Tin.

Expecting to receive a fine, they confessed to flying the drone but were instead sentenced to two months in jail under Myanmar's aircraft act.

However, their lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told The Straits Times yesterday that all pending charges had been withdrawn, and that they had received instructions for all four to be released this morning.

He added that the two foreign journalists were being taken directly to Yangon global airport for flights out of the country, while the two Myanmar nationals have already been reunited with their families.

Later, Aung Naing Soe told Reuters by phone that the release was a surprise.

Reports have said at least 11 journalists have been detained in Myanmar this year.

At a December 26 court hearing, the plaintiffs, police officer Tun Tun Win and immigration official U Htay Win, withdrew the additional charges under the 2012 Export and Import Law for illegally bringing the drone into the country and Section 13 (1) of the 1947 Immigration Act.

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.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested December 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. The UN has also accused Myanmar's army of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the minority, some 655,000 of whom have fled an army crackdown for Bangladesh since late August. He said that they were treated well in prison and also during the interrogation, adding that they admitted they were guilty of Article 10 of the Myanmar Aircraft Act and they would now take caution to that effect. TRT has not confirmed the subject of the documentary but said the reporters told Myanmar's Ministry of Information about their filming plans in advance.

Rights and media groups have criticized the new civilian government led by the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for continuing to use colonial-era laws to threaten and imprison journalists.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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