World Media

Reuters journalists lose appeal of 7-year sentence in Myanmar

Reuters journalists lose appeal of 7-year sentence in Myanmar

A court in Myanmar on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters journalists convicted of violating the country's Official Secrets Act during their reporting on the country's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, maintaining the seven-year prison terms they were sentenced to last year.

Ko Wa Lone, 32, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

"Today's ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo", Reuters Editor-In-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement issued shortly after the judge's ruling. The massacre that they were investigating at the time of their arrest has been admitted to by the Myanmar military, and a senior police officer testified in court that the two journalists were set up by the police.

"We will continue to advocate at all levels for the just release of these fearless journalists", State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement released on Friday.

Judge Aung Naing of the Yangon High Court said in his ruling that lawyers for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo failed to submit enough evidence to prove they were innocent.

The defence has the option of making a further appeal to the country's supreme court, based in the capital Naypyidaw.

When arrested the two were investigating a mass execution of Rohingyas, hundreds of thousands of whom have been forced to flee destruction and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar (also called Burma).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, the OIDA report said, adding that 17,718 (±780) Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar's army and police.

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The reporters' wives cried after the decision which condemns the pair to continue their stay at Yangon's notorious Insein prison, where they have been held for the last 13 months.

The two reporters, who were not present at the time of the decision, insisted that they were allegedly victims of a police set-up.

"(The decision) shows her contempt and the contempt in the country for worldwide opinion", Zawacki said.

Ms Suu Kyi's worldwide standing has already been severely damaged by accusations from United Nations investigators that she failed to use her "moral authority" to stop the military's extreme violence against the Rohingya.

The conviction of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo has drawn worldwide attention as an example of how democratic reforms in long-isolated Myanmar have stalled under the civilian government of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which took power in 2016.

Once a long-time political prisoner herself, Ms Suu Kyi has shown little sympathy for the young men's plight and in September denied that they were jailed because they were journalists.

European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt, who attended the hearing, described the ruling as "a great disappointment and a missed opportunity to correct a wrong that has been committed against the two journalists".