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Bangladesh accuses two Myanmar journalists of ‘espionage’

September 15, 2017

Two Myanmar photographers covering the Rohingya crisis for a German magazine have been arrested in Bangladesh on suspicion of espionage, officials said Friday.

Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat were detained more than a week ago in the border town of Cox’s Bazar, where around 389,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought refuge from violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 25.

The pair’s lawyer said they were charged with “false impersonation” and providing “false information” after police accused them of using the cover of tourist visas to enter the country, instead of journalist visas.

Cox’s Bazar police chief Ranjit Kumar Barua told AFP the pair were also “primarily accused of espionage”.

“They were collecting information on the Rohingya for Myanmar,” he said.

An award-winning photographer from Bangladesh also arrested with the pair was later freed.

Scores of foreign journalists have poured into Bangladesh to cover the Rohingya exodus.

The UN has accused Buddhist-dominated Myanmar of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the stateless group, who say the military has launched a brutal crackdown in Rakhine.

Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat arrived in Cox’s Bazar in early September on assignment for Hamburg-based magazine Geo to cover the refugee crisis, which has strained relations between Muslim-majority Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Their arrest was only announced on Wednesday and a court on Thursday rejected a bail plea, their Bangladeshi lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told AFP.

He described Minzayar Oo as “an award winning photographer whose work was published in reputed dailies and magazines including the New York Times, Guardian and National Geographic”.


Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.