Reuters journalists lose appeal of 7-year sentence in Myanmar

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 12, 2019

A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act.

"Today's ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth", Stephen J Adler, Reuters editor-in-chief, said in a statement.

This morning, however, a judge ruled that it was a "reasonable decision" that was "not wrong according to the law" as he dismissed the appeal.

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are escorted by police as they leave after a court hearing in Yangon.

Ko Wa Lone, 32, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

But High Court judge Aung Naing on Friday said the lawyers failed to submit enough evidence to prove the pair's innocence.

The two men were among the journalists recognized as "guardians" by Time magazine in its 2018 "Person of the Year" edition.

The reporters have contended they were framed by police because of official displeasure over their reporting on the brutal crackdown by security forces on minority Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt, who also was at court, described the ruling as "a great disappointment and a missed opportunity to correct a wrong that has been committed against the two journalists". He said they meant to harm national security and the national interest. "I believe the two will be freed", she said.

Both men have been in prison for more than a year.

Myanmar's military admitted last January that its soldiers took part in the killings, but only after months of denials.

The military had previously released its own investigation into allegations of abuse in Rakhine, and exonerated itself of all wrongdoing, despite large amounts of testimony from Rohingya refugees describing widespread atrocities. This appalling farce must end now.

He called for Myanmar's president to have the journalists released immediately and unconditionally.

In a statement sent after the sentences were handed down, the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar called them "deeply troubling for all who support press freedom and the transition toward democracy in Myanmar".

"We hope for freedom for them", Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer for the journalists, told AFP Thursday, adding that the pair will not be present in court. He said his team will discuss the option of a Supreme Court appeal with the two reporters.

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