Myanmar: Reuters journalists' rejected appeal perpetuates an appalling injustice

13 January, 2019, 10:00 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 and later jailed

A court in Myanmar on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters journalists convicted of violating the country's Official Secrets Act during their reporting on the country's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, and maintained the seven-year prison terms they were sentenced to last year.

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

"The decision on Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo's appeal Friday will show whether Myanmar is truly committed to rule of law & freedom of expression", the Asia Desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote on Twitter before the decision was issued.

They exposed the summary execution of 10 Muslim Rohingyas by the security forces during the military's anti-Rohingya operation in 2017. "We call for these journalists' release immediately and unconditionally", Schmidt said outside the court.

Judge Aung Naing rejected the appeal, calling the original judgement a "reasonable decision", according to Agence France-Presse.

The defence has the option of making a further appeal to the country's Supreme Court, based in the capital, Naypyitaw.

He said his team will discuss the option of a Supreme Court appeal with the two reporters.

"I lost all my hope", a weeping Chit Su Win, the wife of reporter Kyaw Soe Oo, said after the verdict.

"(The decision) shows her contempt and the contempt in the country for global opinion", Zawacki said.

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The two reporters, who were not present for the decision, have insisted they were victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said a superior ordered others to entrap them.

At the time of the arrest they were probing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya at Inn Din village in northern Rakhine state.

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo prepares to leave the court after being sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2018.

The trial was widely regarded as a sham and seen as punishment for their probe, sparking outrage around the world including from United States Vice President Mike Pence.

But they have gained little sympathy within Myanmar.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have received numerous journalism awards while in detention, including at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards last month.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017, when Myanmar's military launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by Rohingya militants.

Meanwhile, Britain on Friday called on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to look at whether due process was followed in the case of Reuters reporters.

Standing outside the court building in Yangon where the judgment was pronounced, Kristian Schmidt, the European Union ambassador to Myanmar, said the ruling was a "miscarriage of justice and it gives us great concern for the independence of the justice system of Myanmar".

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