Journalists investigating violence against Rohingya jailed in Myanmar

Wednesday, 05 Sep, 2018

Mrs May's spokesman criticised the verdict, saying she was "extremely disappointed" by it, and the sentencing. "No one can make me afraid, because I did nothing wrong", said Wa Lone before leaving the courtroom.

U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby said the U.N. was "disappointed by today's court decision".

"This conviction of the 2 Reuters reporters is a hammer blow against media freedom in #Myanmar, showing just how afraid the #Tatmadaw & #Myanmar government are of investigative journalism and critical commentary customarily found in a real democracy", he tweeted, referring to the country's military and civilian authorities.

The case has sparked an outcry among the worldwide community as an attempt to muzzle reporting on last year's crackdown by Myanmar's security forces on the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.

It documented the killing of 10 Rohingya men reportedly carried out by Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops.

The deaths happened during a widespread campaign of violence which started last August and saw more than 700,000 Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere", he said in a statement. USA officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations, have called for the release of the pair and for all charges against them to be dropped.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the Human Rights Watch, called the sentence an "outrageous injustice".

Two Reuters journalists have been jailed for seven years for breaching Myanmar's official secrets act during their reporting of the Rohingya crisis, a judge said, in a case that has drawn outrage as an attack on media freedom.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also called for the journalists' release, while the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar issued a statement saying there were "clear flaws" in the case and that the verdict was "deeply troubling".

Reporters from Mandalay said they would seek a presidential pardon for the two reporters by collecting signatures on a petition.

The reporters had told the court two police officials handed them papers at a restaurant in the city of Yangon moments before other officers arrested them. Then, in April this year, police captain Moe Yan Naing, a prosecution witness, told the court that he had been ordered by a police brigadier general to entrap Wa Lone and his colleague by giving them what was described as "secret documents".

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, both testified they suffered from harsh treatment during their initial interrogations after their arrests last December. Whatever the situation is, we will not be shaken. They claimed they were arrested after the police invited them to dinner in Yangon, and gave them documents.

January 8, 2018: Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe approves an order to prosecute the journalists under Article 3 (1) ( c ) of the Official Secrets Act.

After the verdict was announced, family members pledged to continue to fight for the men to be freed.

The judge has appeared to have ignored evidence and to have ignored Myanmar law.

The two journalists were reporting on a massacre of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military in 2017 and say they were framed by police.