Myanmar: 7 Years for Reporting the Truth

Geneva Stokes
September 4, 2018

A court in Myanmar sentenced two journalists to seven years in prison Monday for illegal possession of official documents.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the night of December 12, 2017, for breaching Myanmar's Official Secrets Act while investigating violence against the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state by the army, the BBC reported.

New UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday (Sep 3) she was "shocked" by Myanmar's jailing of two Reuters journalists for seven years and called for their immediate release. As several appeals for bail had earlier been rejected, the only way out is for the defence to appeal to the regional court first and then the Supreme Court.

"The culprits meant to harm the interests of the state".

Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams said the 7-year sentence "for reporting the truth is what we expect from dictatorships".

Their sentencing has sparked global outrage and raised concerns about press freedom.

More than 700,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh since then, according to United Nations agencies.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere", Stephen J. Adler, Reuters editor-in-chief, said in a statement.

Wa Lone, in handcuffs and flanked by police, told a cluster of friends and reporters after the verdict not to worry.

"Freedom of expression and rule of law are fundamental in a democracy, and this case has passed a long shadow over both today", he said.

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Chugg called for the journalists' release.

Army-led "clearance operations" drove 700 000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities - rape, murder and arson - by Myanmar police and troops. The journalists testified they did not solicit or knowingly possess any secret documents.

"I have no fear", Wa Lone, one of the two journalists, said after the verdict.

Also, the European Union (EU)'s foreign policy service said the sentences "should be reviewed and the two journalists be released immediately and unconditionally".

But the military has acknowledged the killing of the 10 Rohingya men and boys at Inn Din after arresting the Reuters reporters.

The journalists were looking into the deaths of 10 Rohingya at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist villagers in Inn Din, a village in the north of the state.

The BBC said that many would see this verdict as a crushing blow to freedom of the press in Myanmar and another setback for the democracy, three years after Aung San Suu Kyi's party triumphed in free elections.

About 7,00,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee the country after the security officials launched a brutal crackdown as a response to a Rohingya militant group attacking several police posts previous year.

"The trial - and the Rakhine crisis generally - has undermined public support for the media and journalists", said Kean, who has worked in Myanmar as a journalist since 2008.

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