Journalists jailed for seven years in Myanmar as press freedom dealt another blow

Two Reuters journalists arrested in their native Myanmar last year on charges of violating state secrets have been jailed for seven years.

The sentences handed to Wa Lone, 32 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been regarded as another savage blow for press freedom.

“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and press freedom anywhere,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said.

Judge Ye Lwin told the court in Yangon the pair had “intended to harm the interests of the state”.

“And so they have been found guilty under the state secrets act,” he said.

The reporters had been investigating violence against the Rohingya minority when they were offered documents by two police officers. They but were arrested immediately afterwards for the possession of the documents.

Writing on the BBC News website, its Myanmar correspondent, Nick Beake, said: “Many will see this verdict as a crushing blow to freedom of the press in Myanmar and another setback for democracy, three years after Aung San Suu Kyi’s party triumphed in free elections.

Last week, UN inspectors called for Myanmar’s top generals to stand trial for genocide for the crimes committed against the Rohingya – the very subject these reporters were investigating.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo bowed their heads as the verdict was delivered while their families broke down in tears in court.

The reporters have always insisted they were framed. Wa Lone – who missed the birth of his first child while being detained – protested his innocence once again as he was led away.”

Wa Lone said after the verdict. “I have no fear. I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.”


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