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EU Parliament calls on Myanmar to free Reuters journalists

Reuters journalist Wa Lone, who is based in Myanmar, is seen in this undated picture taken in Myanmar. REUTERS/Stringer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The president of the European Parliament on Thursday called on Myanmar to protect media freedoms and urged its government to release two Reuters journalists arrested this week.

“I hope the authorities in Myanmar will free them as soon as possible,” Antonio Tajani told reporters during an EU summit in Brussels. “Light should be shed on this case and human rights and press freedom should be respected.”

A former journalist, the Italian conservative politician said the arrests of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been working on stories about a military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority, increased the EU’s concerns over the Rohingya crisis.

The EU has sanctions in place against Myanmar barring the sale of arms and equipment that can be used for repression. In response to the Rohingya crisis, in October it also suspended invitations to Myanmar military officers.

The EU legislature has a limited role in foreign policy. The Union’s executive is also looking into the arrests of the journalists. Its mission in Myanmar said in a statement: “We call on the Myanmar authorities to ensure the full protection of their rights. Media freedom is the foundation of any democracy.”

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Andrew Roche