Malaysian journalist detained in Myanmar to be released today, says report

Local interpreter Aung Naing Soe center and driver Hla Tin left are welcomed by family members as they were released from Yamethin prison Friday Dec. 29 2017 in Yamethin township on the outskirts of Naypyitaw Myanmar. Two journalists and their

Myanmar on Friday freed two journalists for Turkey's state broadcaster, their local interpreter and a driver after they completed a two-month jail sentence for violating an aircraft law by filming with a drone, a prison official said.

The crew was shooting a documentary in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw.

The four-Turkish state broadcaster TRT World producer Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, freelance camera operator Lau Hon Meng from Singapore, and their interpreter Ko Aung Naing Soe and driver U Hla Tin from Myanmar- were arrested on October 27 and sentenced to two months in prison on November 10 under the 1934 colonial-era Myanmar Aircraft Act for filming with a drone.

A court on Thursday dropped additional charges against them, their local fixer and freelance photographer Aung Naing Soe and driver Hla Tin.

Additionally, he said, the decision was intended "to forward the relationship between countries", referring to the two journalists' home countries, Singapore and Malaysia.

"They were all released this morning at 7:00 am from Yamethin prison", lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

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Aung Naing Soe told Reuters that their early release was as much of a surprise as the initial arrest.

Their families said at a news conference on Thursday that the reporters, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, told them they were arrested nearly immediately after being handed some documents by policemen who had invited them for a meeting.

All four had initially also faced up to three years in prison under Myanmar's import-export law for importing the drone without authorization, while Lau Hong Meng and Mok Choy Lin also faced immigration violations that carried a penalty of up to five years. They were remanded in custody for a further two weeks after an emotional reunion with family members at a brief court hearing on Wednesday - the first time the pair had been allowed access to relatives, colleagues or lawyers. "We are really happy", he told The Irrawaddy on Friday. The UN has also accused Myanmar's army of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the minority, some 655,000 of whom have fled an army crackdown for Bangladesh since late August.

Mok and Lau were expected to leave Myanmar this evening, he said.

The case had raised concerns over freedom of the press in Myanmar, where a civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took power past year but the military retains control of security matters, including the police.


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