Myanmar frees TRT journalists jailed for flying drone

Aung Naing Soe leaves Ya MeThin prison in Mandalay (29 Dec 2017) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Local interpreter and journalist Aung Naing Soe was seen leaving the prison on Friday morning

Two foreign journalists, an interpreter and a driver jailed for flying a drone near Myanmar's parliament have been released, the authorities say.

All four, who work for Turkish broadcaster TRT, have served a two-month sentence for breaching anti-aircraft laws.

Further charges, which could have led to years in jail, have been dropped.

Their case came amid increasing concerns about press freedom in Myanmar.

Cameraman Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Malaysian reporter Mok Choy Lin were detained while shooting a documentary in October. Their driver Hla Tin and their interpreter, local journalist Aung Naing Soe, are both from Myanmar (also called Burma).

TRT has always insisted the authorities had been informed about the planned filming activities.

The jail term was unexpected, as they had anticipated being fined.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lau Hon Meng (left) and Mok Choy Lin were not deemed dangers to national security

The four were being further investigated for breaching rules on importing the drone without a licence, an offence which could have resulted in a three-year jail term.

The two foreign journalists were also accused of immigration offences.

But police dropped the additional charges, saying the men had not endangered national security.

Myanmar has over the past years seen increasing curbs on press freedom, especially on issues around the powerful military.

Earlier this month, two local Reuters journalists covering the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state were arrested under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

The two are facing up to 14 years in prison and met their families on Wednesday for the first time since they were held.

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