Myanmar jails TRT World crew for two months over 'unlicensed drone'

  • 10 Nov 2017

TRT World crew arrested last month in the capital Naypyidaw while shooting a documentary.

A crew of journalists working for TRT World has been sentenced to two months in jail for being in possession of a drone in Myanmar on November 10, 2017. ( TRTWorld )

A Myanmar court sentenced TRT World crew to two months in prison on Friday for possessing an unlicensed drone under Myanmar’s import laws.

TRT World producer Mok Choy Lin, alongside her colleagues Singaporean national Lau Hon Meng, a  freelance camera operator, Myanmar citizen Aung Naing Soe, a freelance journalist and their driver Hla Tin, were detained by the authorities in Myanmar on Friday, October 27. 

Authorities allege the journalists tried to fly a drone over parliament without permission.

The crew appeared in court on Friday for the first time since their arrests. 

The four will face further charges relating to import and export laws with a second trial expected to take place on November 16.

In a statement issued after the arrests, Turkey's English-language public broadcaster, TRT World, said that Myanmar's Information Ministry "was previously informed about all filming activities and the filming schedule," prior to their detention in the capital, Naypyitaw. 

TRT World crew, Aung Naing Soe, Hla Tin, and Lau Hon Meng stand for their first court appearance after found possessing a drone on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.(AP)

"They were surprised when they heard their sentence," the group's lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said, after their one-day trial in the capital.

Myanmar's freelance journalist and interpreter Aung Naing Soe and driver Hla Tin are escorted at a court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.(AP)

The incident comes amid tensions between Turkey and the Southeast Asian nation over Myanmar's treatment of the persecuted Rohingya, who have fled the country in droves after an army crackdown in Rakhine state.

The verdict is also the latest sign of withering press freedoms which started to blossom in Myanmar after the end of junta rule in 2011.

The Committee to Protect Journalists earlier slammed the reporters' arrests as part of an "escalating clampdown on press freedom" in the fledgeling democracy.