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US calls for release of journalists held in Myanmar

US calls for release of journalists held in Myanmar
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The U.S. on Wednesday pressed Myanmar's military to release journalists who were arrested there while covering the country’s coup and subsequent protests against the takeover.

An Associated Press journalist and five other members of the foreign media were detained in Myanmar on Wednesday. The arrests came on the deadliest day of the protests against the military’s rule when at least 38 people were reported killed.

“We are appalled and revulsed to see the horrific violence perpetrated against the people of Burma for their peaceful calls to restore civilian governance. We call on all countries to speak with one voice to condemn brutal violence by the Burmese military against its own people and to promote accountability for the military’s actions that have led to the ... loss of life of so many people in Burma,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press conference. 

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“We are deeply concerned about the increasing attacks on and arrests of journalists. We call on the military to immediately release these individuals, and to cease intimidation and harassment of the media and others unjustly detained merely for doing their jobs, for exercising their universal rights,” he added. “We call upon the military to allow ... journalists to work independently, without harassment, intimidation or fear of reprisals.”

Among the journalists arrested Wednesday was the AP’s Thein Zaw, 32, who was arrested while covering the anti-coup protests in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, called for Zaw's immediate release.

“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” Phillips said. “AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”

The reporters were arrested under a law making it illegal to cause public fear, knowingly spread false information or agitate criminal offense against a government employee.

That law was changed in February by the ruling military junta to bump up the maximum sentence for breaking the law from two years to three years.