Yangon, Oct 26 (IANS) Three Myanmar journalists who were arrested for publishing a report that criticized government spending were released on bail here on Friday.
Eleven Media senior staff Kyaw Zaw Lin, Nayi Min and Phyo Wai Win were escorted by the police at Tamwe township court where the bail hearing took place, Efe news reported.
After the hearing, the three journalists emerged from the courtroom smiling and waving.
They were arrested on October 10 after Yangon’s regional government filed a lawsuit against them for a story that criticized the regional government’s financial management.
The three were charged under Article 505 (b), which criminalizes the publication of reports that could cause “fear or alarm to the public” and carries a maximum punishment of two years’ imprisonment.
The arrests once again fixed the spotlight on press freedom in the country, where journalists have been prosecuted in recent months.
Two Reuters reporters were each jailed for seven years in September for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. They were arrested while investigating abuses against the Rohingyas in western Myanmar.
That same month, a former newspaper columnist and known critic of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to seven years in prison on sedition charges.
On October 11, the Myanmar Press Council (MPC) denounced the arrests of the Eleven Media journalists, saying that the government should have lodged a complaint with the MPC first.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the journalists.
The Eleven Media Group, which won the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2011, brings out five weeklies “and has played a fundamental role in the emergence of a civil society in Myanmar,” RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said in the statement.
Myanmar is currently ranked 137th out of 180 countries on the RSF World Press Freedom Index.