Myanmar sentences journalists who investigated government massacre to 7 years

Reuters journalist Wa Lone (C) is escorted out of court in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday. He and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty of violating a state secrets act while working on a story. Photo by Lynn Bo Bo/EPA-EFE

Sept. 4 (UPI) — A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison after they were arrested while investigating a massacre carried out by the Myanmar military.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were found guilty of breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, a set of laws implemented when the country was under British rule that prohibits the handling of official government documents.

The pair was arrested in December moments after police officers invited them to dinner and handed them the documents for which they were arrested, their attorneys said.

After the sentence, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were taken to prison.

“This is unfair. This decision is one-sided,” Wa Lone told reporters as he was put into a police vehicle. “It directly threatens out democracy and freedom of the press. I would like to say it’s very disappointing as it’s destroyed the democracy of our country and the way we would like to be. We will continue to fight.”

Reuters president and editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement: “These two admirable reporters have already spent nearly nine months in prison on false charges designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press.”

He added: “Without any evidence of wrongdoing and in the face of compelling evidence of a police set-up, today’s ruling condemns them to the continued loss of their freedom and condones the misconduct of security forces.”

Human rights observers and foreign government officials criticized the sentence as retaliation for the work Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did to uncover a massacre of at least 10 Rohingya men that was carried out by Myanmar security forces.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for the sentence to be “quashed and for them to be released, along with all other journalists currently in detention for their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

And U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the sentence “another terrible stain” on Myanmar.

“It is clear to all that the Burmese military has committed vast atrocities,” Haley said in a statement. “In a free country, it is the duty of a responsible press to keep people informed and hold leaders accountable.”

“The conviction of two journalists for doing their job is another terrible stain on the Burmese government,” she continued. “We will continue to call for their immediate and unconditional release.”


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