Myanmar court sentences Reuters reporters to 7 years in jail

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03 September 2018|22 Dhul Hijjah 1439|Anadolu Agency

Two Myanmar journalists of the Reuters on Monday have been given seven years jail sentence for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by the security officials in western Rakhine state.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing the state secret documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair as they just did what journalists were supposed to do during investigation into the unlawful killings.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

Criticism
The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar’s stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

“The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar,” it said in a statement.

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

“The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

The journalists were investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya men in a remote village in Rakhine state last September. Military had admitted soldiers were involved in the killing just days after the arrest of Reuters journalists in December.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”