They were arrested after being invited to meet police officials over dinner on 12th December 2017. The Ministry of Information said that they were “arrested for possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine State and security forces”.
Burma’s ambassador to the UN, Hau Do Suan, said that the journalists were not arrested for reporting a story, but were accused of “illegally possessing confidential government documents”.
The journalists were working on a report which describes how security forces and local Rakhine Buddhists were involved in the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men buried in a mass grave in Rakhine state. After their arrest, they were detained for two weeks at an undisclosed location and were not allowed to meet relatives or lawyers. They were charged under the Official Secrets Act and are currently on trial while they remain in detention.
The Official Secrets Act was introduced in 1923, during the colonial era, and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. In the past, the government used the law against journalists for reporting on current affairs.