A court in Myanmar sentenced two foreign journalists on assignment for Turkish Radio and Television to two months in prison on Nov 10 for flying a drone over parliament without permission.
- Journalists reportedly filming documentary
- Filming of parliament was allegedly done after interview with MP
- Local interpreter and driver also jailed for two months
- Reporters had only expected a fine
- Hearing for separate charge of importing drone set for Nov 16
- Sentence for importing drone is up to three years’ jail
- Detainees not allowed to see family members
Malaysian Mok Choy Lin and Singaporean Lau Hon Meng were on assignment for Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) when they were detained on Oct 27 in the capital, Naypyitaw.
Their local interpreter, Aung Naing Soe, and their driver, Hla Tin, were also sentenced to two months in jail for the incident.
All four face separate charges for allegedly importing the drone. Another hearing is set for Nov 16.
Reportedly, the group could face up to three more years in jail for the import of “restricted or banned” goods without a proper licence.
A state-run newspaper had previously reported the journalists intended to take photos of parliament buildings and pagodas in Naypyitaw when security guards spotted them.
Lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the defendants had confessed to flying the drone but were only expecting a fine, AFP reported.
“They were surprised when they heard their sentence,” the lawyer was quoted as saying after their one-day trial in the capital.
The report said TRT claims the journalists had informed Myanmar’s Ministry of Information about their filming plans.
In a statement after their arrests, the Turkish broadcaster said police raided Aung’s home and confiscated his computer and hard drive.
The detainees had not been allowed to see family members since they were held.
When they appeared for the hearing on Friday, Aung, who is also a journalist, was able to hug his weeping mother.
The incident comes in the face of tensions surging between Myanmar and Turkey, which has led criticism of the Southeast Asian nation for its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Several journalists have been arrested in Myanmar this year, fuelling fears of an erosion of press freedoms that blossomed after the end of junta rule in 2011.
Reportedly, many have been charged with defamation or arrested for reporting on armed rebel groups.