Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Reactions to verdict on Reuters' Myanmar journalists

To match Special Report MYANMAR-JOURNALISTS  TRIAL REUTERS  Antoni Slodkowski  File The Myanmar-based journalists have been sentenced to seven years behind bars
Leonard Rios | 04 September, 2018, 00:04

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

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era law, Reuters reported.

"We will be in court tomorrow (Monday) to hear the final decision on the journalists' case", he said.

The court determined that "confidential documents" found on the two would have been useful "to enemies of the state and terrorist organisations".

BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO MYANMAR DAN CHUGG:"Speaking on behalf of the British government but also on behalf of European Union member states, we are extremely disappointed by this verdict".

A file photo of detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo (bottom, centre) and Wa Lone (top, centre) being escorted by police as they leave after a court hearing in Yangon, on Aug 20, 2018.

Wa Lone, who gave a defiant "thumbs up" to the massed ranks of reporters, said: "We will face it (the verdict) with stability and courage".

The reporters, both Burmese nationals, said that police officers had invited them to dinner in Yangon and handed them documents, only for the pair to be arrested upon leaving the restaurant....

Haley told the Security Council during a discussion of the Rohingya crisis last week that "a free and responsible press is critical for any democracy". A policeman called as a prosecution witness testified that his commander had ordered that documents be planted on the journalists.

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

Some of the reporters' supporters shouted "let them speak" and jostled with police as they were driven back to prison.

Myanmar has responded harshly to those who challenge the official narrative that government forces were simply responding to militants by embarking on a massive operation in Rakhine last August, sending nearly 900,000 mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh.

He said, "The judge has ignored the evidence in the case and also ignored Myanmar laws".

The protesters demanded the immediate release of the two Reuters reporters, saying their arrests violate the public's right to information.

Kyaw Soe Oo's wife, Chit Su Win, burst into tears after the verdict, and family members had to support her as she left the court.

The army has published its version of events at Inn Din village, conceding the Rohingya men were killed while in custody but saying it was a one-off act of abuse by a mix of security forces and ethnic Rakhine locals.

Kyaw Soe Oo said that while being investigated he was deprived of sleep, forced to kneel for hours and had a black hood placed over his head.

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.

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