Myanmar court rejects final appeal by jailed Reuters pair  

Myanmar’s military-controlled Supreme Court has rejected the appeal by the two Reuters journalists who were jailed for seven years under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Wa Lone, 33, (pictured) and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were arrested in December 2017 in an apparent entrapment operation by the police while reporting on the military’s murder of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys at the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine State.

Seven Burmese soldiers have since been sentenced to 10 years of hard labour for their role in the Rakhine murders.

But the reporters’ sentence was upheld in the sprawling capital.

“They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected,” Supreme Court Justice Soe Naing told the court in Nay Pyi Taw.
The appeal had cited a lack of proof of a crime and evidence that they were set up by police.

Under the controversial 2008 constitution, the military retains control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which includes Myanmar’s judiciary.

The Reuters story, which uncovered military involvement in killings, arson and looting, was completed by colleagues and published last year.

Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo and their colleagues shared the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting last month.

A police captain told a lower court last year that officers had handed secret documents to the two reporters after a commander ordered that the pair be arrested. The captain was subsequently jailed for making the revelation.

A district court judge in Yangon convicted the men last September amid intense international scrutiny.

The Yangon High Court rejected their appeal in January.

The case exposed the lack of democratic reform in Myanmar and the inability of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy to challenge the generals.

US Vice President Mike Pence asked Suu Kyi to intervene but the supposed national leader said the case has “nothing to do with freedom of expression” and that the reporters were jailed because they broke the law.

This morning’s ruling was condemned by the international community. Outgoing United Nations humanitarian coordinator Knut Ostby expressed his “disappointment”. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be allowed to return to their families and continue their work as journalists,” the Norwegian said.

Reuters vowed to fight on.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” said Gail Gove, Reuters’ legal chief, after the verdict in the capital.
“Instead, they were victims of a police setup to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.”

Wa Lone. Picture credit: YouTube