Reuters journalists lose appeal against 7-year sentence

Reuters journalist Wa Lone is serving a seven year sentence in a Yangon jail

Reuters journalist Wa Lone is serving a seven year sentence in a Yangon jail Credit Reuters

A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act.

Lawyers representing the young men said the Yangon Regional High Court, in its ruling expected later Friday, could uphold the sentences, reduce the terms or quash the convictions. They remain behind bars for one reason: "those in power sought to silence the truth", said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler in a statement.

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

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.

This morning, however, a judge ruled that it was a "reasonable decision" that was "not wrong according to the law" as he dismissed the appeal.

Outside the country, the two men have been hailed as media freedom heroes and jointly named Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2018, alongside other persecuted and slain journalists.

Kyaw Soe Oo was also arrested for his investigation into military atrocities
Kyaw Soe Oo was also arrested for his investigation into military atrocities Credit Ann Wang Reuters

The judge said the defendants did not follow journalistic ethics and that the court could not determine whether the arrest of the reporters was a trap.

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. "I believe the two will be freed", she said. "The continued rise of China has allowed a certain amount of political interference to be run on behalf of countries like Myanmar such that decisions like these can be defended internationally in a way that was not really possible 10 years ago, much less 20 or 30 years ago".

They maintain their innocence, saying the authorities set them up.

"The decision to keep these two courageous and innocent Reuters journalists behind bars plays in the hands of the Myanmar authorities' attempt to hide the truth about the atrocities committed in Rakhine", Amnesty's Director of Crisis Response Tirana Hassan said in a statement. This appalling farce must end now.

The defence also said prosecutors had failed to prove the reporters gathered and collected secret information, sent information to an enemy of Myanmar or that they had an intention to harm national security.

Latest News