Myanmar’s Highest Court docket Upholds Conviction of Reuters Journalists

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Myanmar’s highest courtroom dominated towards two Reuters reporters on Tuesday, upholding their conviction for violating a state secrets and techniques legislation after they uncovered a army bloodbath.

The 2 reporters, U Wa Lone, 33, and U Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been sentenced in September to seven years in jail beneath the colonial-era Official Secrets and techniques Act for receiving paperwork from a police officer. They’ve been imprisoned for 16 months, drawing worldwide condemnation by human rights teams and media organizations.

Their protection attorneys argued that the proof within the case was planted by the police and that the rolled-up papers they had been handed contained data that was already public. The reporters testified at trial that they had been arrested so rapidly that they by no means had an opportunity to have a look at the paperwork.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo didn’t commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Gail Gove, Reuters’ chief counsel, mentioned after the Supreme Court docket ruling was introduced. “As a substitute, they had been victims of a police setup to silence their truthful reporting. We’ll proceed to do all we are able to to free them as quickly as attainable.”

Mr. Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo have been broadly praised for his or her work in uncovering the bloodbath of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers who had been fatally shot by troopers and villagers in September 2017 in Inn Din village in Rakhine State.

They had been among the many Reuters journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for worldwide reporting earlier this month. Arrested in December 2017, they’ve been in jail ever since.

In Myanmar, the army and civilian leaders share energy beneath a structure imposed by the army.

Many individuals in Myanmar and around the globe had hoped that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who turned the nation’s de facto civilian chief, would promote democracy and free speech.

However as an alternative, she has usually allied herself with the army, which carried out what the United Nations has known as a genocide of the Rohingya individuals, killing 1000’s, burning villages, raping girls and women and forcing greater than 750,000 to flee throughout the border into Bangladesh, the place they now stay in refugee camps.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has had quite a few alternatives to free the 2 journalists however has refused all entreaties.

Her lawyer common, Htun Htun Oo, oversaw the prosecution of the case, which human rights advocates argued ought to have been dropped.

Earlier this month, the nation’s president, Win Myint, pardoned nearly 10,000 prisoners, however Mr. Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo weren’t amongst them.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo ought to by no means have been arrested, a lot much less prosecuted, for doing their jobs as investigative journalists,” mentioned Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “That they’re nonetheless in jail exhibits simply how flawed Myanmar’s democracy beneath Aung San Suu Kyi goes.”

Chit Su Win, the spouse of Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo, mentioned she had hoped that the Supreme Court docket would at the least cut back the jail sentences of her husband and Mr. Wa Lone.

“I’m very disenchanted with the choice,” she mentioned.

Their lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, mentioned they’d search a pardon from Mr. Win Myint. However since he was handpicked by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and studies to her, any determination to free the reporters would nearly actually relaxation together with her.

“Myanmar has a really weak judicial system for freedom of press and human rights,” Mr. Khin Maung Zaw mentioned.

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