Myanmar court rejects appeal of 2 jailed Reuters journalists, upholds 7-year-jail term

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

Myanmar court rejects appeal of two jailed Reuters journalists, upholds 7-year-jail term

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper on December 12. (Photo: Reuters

A Myanmar court on Friday (January 11 rejected the appeal of two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act.

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

“The defendants…have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years. The time already served by the defendants from Dec. 12 will be taken into consideration,” the judge, who convicted and sentenced the two Reuters reporters, said while delivering the judgment.

At the time of the arrest, the journalists were probing a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims. The two men have insisted they were the victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said superior ordered others to entrap them.

The trial was widely regarded as a sham and seen as punishment for their probe, sparking outrage around the world including from US Vice President Mike Pence.

During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on December 12.

The convictions came amid mounting pressure on Myanmar over a security crackdown sparked by attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in West Myanmar in August 2017.

The violent military campaign in 2017 forced more than 7,20,000 Rohingya travel across the border to Bangladesh, with refugees bringing their stories of murder, rape and arson.

United Nations (UN investigators called for top generals to be investigated for a genocide and singled out civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for criticism for failing to stop the crackdown.