Myanmar Court Sentences Reuters Reporters to Seven Years in Prison

Reuters journalists in Myanmar sentenced to 7 years in jail

Reuters journalists in Myanmar sentenced to 7 years in jail

Two Myanmar journalists were jailed for seven years each on Monday (Sept 3) for breaching the country's official secrets act, in a decision critics decried as an attempt to punish them for exposing a massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

"They are sentenced to seven years in prison each". Naing Lin testified during pre-trial hearings that he met the reporters at a restaurant on December 12, but said that he did not hand them anything.

A Myanmar court's conviction of two Reuters journalists on politically motivated charges heralds a return to the media repression seen during military rule, Human Rights Watch said today.

Kyaw Soe Oo has a three-year-old daughter and Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon, gave birth to their first child last month.

In a statement announcing his ruling, Ye Lwin, the judge presiding over the case, said the two journalists possessed "top secret documents" and planned to share it with others, including insurgent groups in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The reporters' lawyer, Mr Khin Maung Zaw, told reporters the verdict was "bad for Myanmar... for democracy, for rule of law and for the freedom of the press".

It also strongly criticised de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to use moral authority to stand up for the stateless minority.

A U.N mandated fact-finding mission revealed last week Myanmar's military involved in mass killings, gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with "genocidal intent". US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations, have called for the release of the pair and for all charges against them to be dropped.

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"I'm sad for Wa lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and their families, but also for Myanmar".

US ambassador Scot Marciel said the verdict was "deeply troubling for everybody who has struggled so hard here for media freedom".

Britain's Ambassador to Myanmar Dan Chugg said he was "extremely disappointed" by the guilty verdict. "I think one has to ask will this process increase or decrease the confidence the people of Myanmar have in their justice system", Marciel told reporters.

British ambassador Dan Chugg, speaking on behalf of his government and European Union members, said he was "extremely disappointed" by the verdict in a case that had "passed a long shadow" over freedom of expression and the rule of law.

At the time of their arrests, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been collecting evidence about the execution of 10 men by the army in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine.

The pair had been investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in western Rakhine State, from where more than 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims fled military operations which the United Nations last week said amounted to genocide.

The case has sparked an outcry among the worldwide community as an attempt to muzzle reporting on last year's crackdown by Myanmar's security forces on the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.

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