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Burma Court Lessens Charges Against Journalists

A Myanmar journalist with his mouth sealed with tape, symbolizing the government's recent crackdown on media, protest outside Myanmar Peace Center where President Thein Sein attends a meeting in Yangon, Myanmar, July 12, 2014.

A court in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has lessened the charges faced by five journalists in the latest case against press workers in the Southeast Asian nation.

Defense lawyer Robert San Aung says the court changed the charges Monday after a recommendation from the Attorney General's office.

"The previous charges are punishable by a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. [They are] now reduced to a charge punishable to maximum of two year in jail. It’s a good sign," said Aung.

The five were arrested last month after the Bi Mon Te Nay journal published an article about a possible interim government led by the opposition National League for Democracy, which is headed by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The case has renewed concerns about press freedom in Myanmar.

Ye Min Oo, a Member of Myanmar’s Interim Press Council, says his group discussed the issue during a meeting with President Thein Sein on Friday.

“We appealed [to the President] to do anything he can within legal procedure. Since [the President] said he would explore options within the legal framework, I think the court’s decision seems related," said Oo.

Last month, a Myanmar court sentenced four journalists and a magazine publisher to 10 years in prison violating the nation's State Secrets Act.

Executive Editor Tint San and four reporters of the Unity Journal were arrested in January this year after they ran a report about a suspected chemical and weapon factory in northern Myanmar.

Defense lawyer Kyaw Lin told VOA's Burmese service he hopes the verdict will eventually be reversed on appeal.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese service.

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