Prosecutors said Wednesday that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had violated Myanmar's Official Secrets Act - a colonial-era law that bears a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
While the United States and the United Nations have called the campaign against the Rohingya ethnic cleansing, the Myanmar government has blocked independent investigators and journalists from the epicenter of violence, making it hard to gather proof of atrocities. The two journalists arrived and left court in handcuffs. "Having heard the charges brought under the Official Secrets Act of 1923, we continue to expect the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of these journalists' rights and to release them as quickly as possible", an European Union spokesman said, adding that European Union envoys had been present in court.
The pair were taken into custody on December 12 after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, according to Reuters. They sat down, and some documents were handed over.
Local media organisations said the arrest of the two journalists was an attack on media freedom. "Please help us by uncovering the truth". "Their actions are wrong and unfair".
On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar released a statement saying it's "disappointed by today's decision to pursue charges". For democracy to succeed and flourish, journalists must be able to do their jobs. "We believe time is of the essence and we continue to call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's prompt release", he added.
While this admission of guilt is a step into the right direction, it may take much more work to finally see Myanmar admitting to taking part in a massive effort that involves violation of human rights, abuse, and murder to force the Rohingya out of the country.
"Some villagers from Inn Din village and security members confessed they killed 10 Bengali terrorists", the office said in a Facebook post about the September 2 killings, using a pejorative term for Rohingya.
More than 600,000 Rohingyas are estimated to have fled the violence to Bangladesh.
Drawing on satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch revealed the stark transformation of villages once populated by Rohingya - and now apparently burned to the ground and emptied of residents.
"The two journalists were engaged in normal reporting activities, and had not committed any wrongdoing".
The journalists are expected to have another court hearing later this month.
But the Rohingya community rejects the cards because all Rohingya who live in Myanmar have other forms of identification and official lists documenting all family members, said Kyaw Soe Aung, executive director of the Rohingya American Society. "And by targeting a high-profile news organization like Reuters, it shows no journalist is safe to report on sensitive stories in Myanmar". "All charges against them should be dropped".