YANGON (Agencies) – 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 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 licence.
“We have opened a case against all four – two foreigners and two Burmese. They will be held on remand until November 10,” deputy police colonel Kyaw Moe said.
The foreigners, Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, were arrested on Friday 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 local driver Hla Tin.
The development comes amid tension between Turkey and Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis. In early September, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the death of the Rohingya constituted a “genocide” aimed at Muslim communities in the region, a charge Myanmar denies.
Turkish broadcaster TRT earlier said on its website that the network was “in discussions with Myanmar authorities to secure their release. Both journalists had valid visas”.
Several journalists in Myanmar have been arrested this year, leading rights groups to warn that the gains made in press freedom since the end of military rule risk being reversed under the administration of national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The two foreign journalists had been detained at police station no. 1 in Naypyitaw, while the two Myanmar nationals were transferred to a prison in Pyinmana. On Friday night, about 25 police staged a raid on the Yangon house of Aung Naing Soe, seizing his memory sticks and searching documents.