In a statement released on Tuesday, English-language public broadcaster TRT World said Myanmar authorities were informed about the filming plans of its crew who were detained Friday.
The journalists, Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, have been held since Friday in the capital Naypyitaw, along with their Myanmarese interpreter, Aung Naing Soe, and driver Hla Tin. Police said they are investigating the four for bringing a drone into Myanmar in violation of an import-export rule that carries a penalty of up to three years in jail. Lau Hon Meng and Mok Choy Lin were remanded for a hearing scheduled for Nov. 10.
"Our crew wanted to film the parliament building in the capital with a drone after conducting an interview with a member of parliament. They were detained by security officials before flying the drone," the TRT World statement said. "Mok Choy Lin and Lau Hon Meng arrived in Yangon on Oct. 21 with journalist visas issued by the Myanmar government. They shot in various locations with conventional cameras as well as with a drone up until Oct. 27. The Myanmar Information Ministry was previously informed about all of the filming activities and the filming schedule," the statement on the broadcaster's website said.
Myint Kyaw, an information ministry official in charge of journalist visas, told Reuters that TRT World had only made a broad request to the ministry to film in Yangon and the troubled western state of Rakhine. "The letter they sent was not their schedule. They did not even mention visiting Naypyitaw in their letter," he said, adding that the letter did not mention a drone.
Last week's arrests came amid tension between Turkey and Myanmar over the treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine. In early September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said security operations targeting the Rohingya constituted genocide, a charge Myanmar denies.
More than 600,000 Muslim Rohingya fled the majority-Buddhist country for neighboring Bangladesh after security forces launched a counter-insurgency operation in response to a Rohingya militants attacks on Aug. 25.
The families of the two Myanmar nationals and a lawyer hired on their behalf have not been allowed to visit them, family members and police said.
On Friday, around 25 police raided the Yangon house of their interpreter, Aung Naing Soe, a freelance reporter, seizing his flash drives and searching his documents.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the immediate and unconditional release of all four.
"These arrests and the raid of Aung Naing Soe's home speak to the continuing deterioration of the conditions for the press in Myanmar," Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement Monday.
TRT World is the English-language subsidiary of Turkish Radio and Television Corporation.
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