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Lawyer for Myanmar journalists detained in Bangladesh denied access

More than 410,000 refugees from Myanmar have poured into Bangladesh since August 25, when attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants triggered a crackdown by the Myanmar Army.

world Updated: Sep 18, 2017 17:43 IST
A Rohingya refugee carries a baby through a swollen stream in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on September 18, 2017.
A Rohingya refugee carries a baby through a swollen stream in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on September 18, 2017. (Reuters)

A lawyer for two Myanmar journalists detained in Bangladesh while reporting on the influx of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar said on Monday he had been denied access to them amid concern over their well-being.

The journalists, Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat, were detained more than a week ago in Cox’s Bazar border district of Bangladesh, where refugees are arriving from Myanmar to escape a military offensive against insurgents that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.

Bangladesh police said the pair was detained for engaging in journalistic work for a German magazine while on tourist visas. On Thursday, a court refused them bail.

Jyotirmoy Barua, their lawyer, said he had gone to the prison to meet them about a petition he planned to file in a higher court seeking their release.

But prison authorities refused him permission and did not say why, he said, adding he had asked for court and police documents to prepare an appeal on behalf of the two.

Myanmar has said it is seeking information about the two through diplomatic channels.

More than 410,000 refugees from Myanmar have poured into Bangladesh since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts triggered a Myanmar Army operation in response.

Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing, saying its forces are conducting a legitimate campaign against terrorists.

Germany’s GEO magazine, which had assigned Minzayar Oo to cover the Rohingya crisis, said he travelled to Bangladesh on September 6 along with Hkun Lat, and was detained the next day.

“We are very concerned that the lawyer is being denied access,” Christoph Kucklick, editor-in-chief of GEO, said in a joint statement with Adrian Evans, director of Panos Pictures, of which Minzayar Oo is a member.

“Even more disconcerting is that the authorities are stating that Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat were detained on September 13 - whereas in reality they have been in police custody since September 7,” the magazine said.

“We need to know that they are well treated and physically unharmed.”

Minzayar Oo is one of Myanmar’s most prominent photographers and has worked for several media outlets, covering the country’s emergence from military rule.

Hkun Lat is also a well-known photographer in Myanmar and has won prizes for his coverage of conflict in frontier regions.