“States that have something they don’t want to be seen, always stop the media and freedom of the press and we must fight for freedom of the press. We must fight.” Pope Francis told Reuters, when asked about the case of two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar on accusations of possessing secret documents.
“The right to information is a right that must always be protected.” Pope Francis said.
Reporters Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, and Wa Lone, 32, have been held since December in what has become a landmark press freedom case, charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The alleged offences carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
At the time of their arrest, the pair had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Myanmar government spokesman Zay Htay said on Wednesday that the judiciary was independent, as in other democratic countries.
“Currently, Reuters’ case is a case which is still ongoing at the court. They will be released, if they are innocent. They will be punished if they committed a crime. The government cannot interfere in the court proceedings.” Htay said
While Pope Francis without naming any countries, decried, “Attacks on press freedom by ‘so-called democratic’ governments, are sometime bad decisions made with ‘white gloves’.” And without naming any countries, Pope decried, “In some places, dictatorial governments under the guise of democracy continue to do these things. But right now the press can be very easily manipulated, very easily. In some countries maybe things are going well, but there are many ways to silence the media.
Pope Francis highlights in an interview that the situation surrounding the detention of the two Reuters reporters Pope Francis should be clarified.
“I would like that the reason why they are in prison be clarified. If they have committed a crime or not. But it is important that the situation be clarified,” Pope said.
Reported by Philip Pullella