" --IANS"
Bangkok, July 19 - ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on Wednesday urged the Myanmar authorities to release three journalists who were detained in June after visiting rebels in the conflict-ridden northeast.

Thein Zaw from The Irrawaddy news magazine, along with Aye Nay and Pyae Phone Aung from the Democratic Voice of Burma media house, were arrested on June 26 along with three guides in the northeastern state of Shan where they were reporting on the burning of illegal drugs organised by the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Efe news reported.

The Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) is a rebel group fighting the army for greater autonomy and which has not yet signed a truce with the government.

Myanmar's authorities must immediately release and drop all charges against these dedicated journalists, who have been targeted on flimsy pretexts for simply doing their jobs, said APHR President Charles Santiago in a statement.

The reporters, who will be tried on July 28, were presented before the judge in on Tuesday, charged under the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act. The APHR called on Aung San Suu Kyi's government to amend the archaic law.

In the statement, the organisation also expressed its growing concerns about the state of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Myanmar since Suu Kyi's democratic movement came to power after winning landslide elections in 2015, and pointed out that at least 71 people had been detained over defamation on social media charges.

In a recent report, human rights organisation Amnesty International accused the Myanmar Army of perpetrating abuses against the civilian population in Shan and Kachin States, including torture, extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate bombardment of villages and restrictions on humanitarian aid.

The report also accused the TNLA rebels of abuses against civilians, including forced recruitment and forced tax collection.



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