[Myanmar] Burmese photographers covering the Rohingya crisis detained in Bangladesh

Burmese photojournalist Minzayar Oo and his assistant Hkun Lat were detained in the town of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on 7 September 2017 (Thursday). The two remain in police custody and their lawyer have been denied access by authorities, according to the GEO magazine press release.

The German magazine assigned the photographers to cover the Rohingya crisis in the border town. Minzayar Oo is a member of the British photo agency Panos Pictures.

GEO magazine and Panos Pictures said: “We are very concerned that the lawyer is being denied access…we need to know that they are well treated and physically unharmed.”

Based on news reports, the photographers face charges under “false impersonation” and providing “false information” under Sections 177 and 419 of the Penal Code and Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946. Violations of the acts can be punished with imprisonment, fine, or both.

The police stated that “the Myanmarese journalists were primarily accused of espionage as they were collecting information on the Rohingya.” The lawyer said the “police accused them of using the cover of tourist visas to enter the country, instead of journalist visas.”

The Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN) in a statement condemned and viewed the arrest of the journalists, who are just doing their job, as a hinder to press freedom and not a practice in a democracy.

The wife of Minzayar Oo, San Tint, posted on Facebook: “Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat are all fine. They are treated well in Bangladesh. They have really good lawyer, and we are hoping to get bail out soon. Thank you all for worrying about the case and giving us support. We appreciate it. There is not much to worry about.”

Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh Jyotirmoy Barua said “after their detention, the journalists were taken to Dhaka for interrogation. They were produced before court after six days, where the government’s lawyer opposed their bail petition claiming they were spies.”

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Myanmar (FCCM) on September 15 called “upon the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure the safety and earlier release of the detained journalists.”