Rohingya-Crisis:Myanmar Jails Reuters Reporters For 7-Yrs For Breaching State Secrets Law

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NAYPYIDAW — Two Reuters jour­nalists accused of breaching Myan­mar’s state secrets law during their reporting of a massacre of Rohingya Muslims were jailed for seven years on Monday, drawing outrage over the attack on media freedom and calls for their immediate release.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who have been held in Yangon’s Insein prison since their arrest in December, were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act, a draconian British colonial-era law which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

The case has sparked an out­cry among the international 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.

The army-led “clearance opera­tions” drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities — rape, murder and arson — by Myan­mar security forces.

The reporters denied the charges, insisting they were set up while exposing the extrajudi­cial killing of 10 Rohingya Mus­lims in the Rakhine village of Inn Din in September last year.

They said they were arrested after being invited to dinner by po­lice in Yangon who handed them documents. As they left the restau­rant, the pair were detained for pos­sessing classified material.

Judge Ye Lwin was unmoved by their testimony. “It is found that the culprits intended to harm the interests of the state. And so they have been found guilty under the state secrets act,” he told the packed Yangon court.

“They are sentenced to seven years in prison each.”

As they were led to the wait­ing prison van the handcuffed duo, both Myanmar nationals, gave brief but emotional statements on the court steps.

“The government can detain us in the prison but… don’t close the ears and eyes of the people,” Kyaw Soe Oo said.

Wa Lone who gave a defiant “thumbs up” to the masssed ranks of reporters, said “we will face it (the verdict) with stability and courage.”

‘Crimes against humanity’

Defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said that an appeal would be lodged “as soon as possible” against the verdict which Re­uters denounced as based on “false charges”.

“Today is a sad day for Myan­mar… and the press everywhere,” Stephen J.

Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement, adding that the outcome was “designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press”.

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.


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