Myanmar media, activists condemn conviction of Reuters reporters

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at an event to honor federal immigration agents in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC USA 20 August 2018

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at an event to honor federal immigration agents in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC USA 20 August 2018

Deputy Information Minister Aung Hla Tun rejected the suggestion that the verdict was a blow to press freedom but acknowledged that some laws were "not friendly" to the media, including the Official Secrets Act under which the two reporters were convicted.

A court on Monday sentenced two journalists to seven years in prison for their reporting of a massacre purportedly carried out by the Myanmar military.

She said the two men "were just doing their jobs as reporters", and that her husband "was a good citizen who hadn't committed any wrongdoing".

The journalists were investigating violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country, which Myanmar's military has been accused of being responsible for.

Speaking at a news conference in NY marking the USA assumption of the rotating chairmanship of the Security Council for September, Haley said the reporters were "in prison for telling the truth". Haley said the men were "in prison for telling the truth".

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon said the case raises "serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar, and the reporters' conviction is a major setback to the government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms". Threats and taunting by his supporters have prompted news networks to hire security guards for some correspondents.

In this combination image made from two photos, Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and Wa Lone, are handcuffed as they are escorted by police out of the court Monday, Sept. 3, 2018, in Yangon, Myanmar.

The journalists were reporting on a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

The verdict comes during a time of intense global scrutiny on Myanmar authorities following a damning United Nations report about the military's treatment of the Rohingya, which it said amounted to ethnic cleansing.

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"The judge, U Ye Lwin, ruled that the journalists meant to harm the country by sharing its secrets", The New York Times reports.

The defense can appeal the conviction, and the lawyers told the news conference they were considering all options.

"Today's appalling verdict has condemned two innocent men to years behind bars".

"The conviction of two journalists for doing their job is another bad stain on the Burmese government", she continued.

The incident has been a thorn in the side of Myanmar's de-facto leader and Nobel peace prize victor Aung San Suu Syi, who has been widely criticized for not speaking up about the issue. The report also said that Suu Kyi did not use "her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events". She said that a decision on their guilt or innocence would be up to the judiciary.

Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon, said she wanted the journalists to be released "as quickly as possible". "After yesterday's verdict, if feels like my hopes have been destroyed".

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said in a statement that the news service is weighing its options following the convictions and may turn to worldwide groups for help. Freedom of religion & freedom of the press are essential to a strong democracy.

Haley suggested that the USA would be more vocal about the situation.

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