MYANMAR | Reuters Reporters Jailed For 7 Years With Hard Labour

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MYO MYO / JAMES HOOKWAY in Yangon and Bangkok |

A Myanmar court sentenced two Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years with hard labour in prison on for obtaining state secrets.

Wa Lone, one of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in prison in Myanmar for obtaining state records, on Monday. ©AP

Defendants Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were entrapped by police officers who planted classified documents on them to disrupt their reporting into human rights atrocities in western Rakhine state, according to their defense. Myanmar has been accused by United Nations investigators of genocide in a crackdown launched a year ago against Rohingyas that left about 10,000 people dead and forced more than 700,000 to relief camps in Bangladesh.

Reuters reporters on assignment, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo shed light on some of the worst abuses. Among them were photographs of the massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys who were tied together and executed in the village of Inn Din. The photos prompted a rare admission of wrongdoing by Myanmar’s military, which has otherwise rejected claims that it violated human rights in what it calls an antiterrorism campaign.

Their defense lawyers said reporters were only doing their jobs and that the documents they obtained couldn’t be considered a threat to national security under Myanmar’s colonial–era Official Secrets Act.

 

READ ALSO | Reuters Reporters Framed | https://lookeast.in/myanmar-reuters-reporters-framed/

 

Prosecutors said the duo had intended to harm the state by obtaining secret documents for Reuters’ commercial benefit and this clashed with Myanmar’s national interest.

 

Reuters rejected the argument, saying it was obvious that the men were reporters, not spies. Government spokesman Zaw Htay repeatedly declined to comment during the trial, saying the government couldn’t interfere with the proceedings

 

Defense lawyers and Reuters rejected the argument, saying it was obvious that the men were reporters, not spies. Government spokesman Zaw Htay repeatedly declined to comment during the trial, saying the government couldn’t interfere with the proceedings.

Reuters will decide in coming days how to proceed, including whether to seek relief in an international forum, according to Stephen J. Adler, Reuters’ Editor–in–Chief.

 

READ ALSO | Myanmar Charges Reuters Journalists | https://lookeast.in/myanmar-charges-reuters-journalists/

 

At the Shangri–La Dialogue in Singapore in June, a senior figure in Myanmar’s government suggested the country’s president would consider pardoning the two journalists if they were found guilty.

After the verdict was read out, the two reporters were led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. They briefly addressed reporters before being pushed into a waiting police van. Kyaw Soe Oo said: “We were sent to prison to close the eyes and ears of people in Myanmar.”

Myanmar police seen outside court room blocking media to talk to the sentenced journalists. Police van didn’t stop driving even it almost crashed the journalists.

Their ordeal began on December 12, when police officials invited them for dinner at a restaurant in suburban Yangon. During their trial, the reporters told the court that Police Lance Cpl. Naing Lin and another officer handed them documents that were rolled up inside a newspaper before they were arrested outside.

 

Two reporters were led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. They briefly addressed reporters before being pushed into a waiting police van. Kyaw Soe Oo said — “We were sent to prison to close the eyes and ears of people in Myanmar”

 

During the trial, Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing testified that a police general had given instructions to entrap the reporters. Lance Cpl. Naing Lin acknowledged meeting the reporters but denied giving them anything.

After they were arrested, the reporters were handcuffed, black hoods were placed over their heads and they were transferred to a special interrogation site in northern Yangon. They were kept handcuffed and prevented from sleeping during a marathon interrogation session that lasted several days, Kyaw Soe Oo said.

10 Rohingya men and boys who were tied together and executed in the village of Inn Din. ©Reuters

Zaw Htay, the government spokesman, has said authorities checked with police about whether they tortured the reporters and the police denied it.

Kyaw Soe Oo said his interrogators ignored the documents that the reporters had been accused of obtaining and focused instead on their reporting. The questioning didn’t end until police found photographs of the 10 people killed at Inn Din on the reporters’ phones, Kyaw Soe Oo said. He said one of the officers barged into his cell and asked, “Why didn’t you tell us about this?”

 

Interrogators ignored the documents that the reporters had been accused of obtaining and focused instead on their reporting. The questioning didn’t end until police found photographs of the 10 people killed at Inn Din on the reporters’ phones, Kyaw Soe Oo said. He said one of the officers barged into his cell and asked, “Why didn’t you tell us about this?

 

The US and European Union have put sanctions on several leaders of Myanmar’s army. Last week, the UN released a report calling for Myanmar’s military to be prosecuted for genocide and said Aung San Suu Kyi, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, bore a degree of responsibility. China has offered Myanmar support as Beijing seeks to regain influence with its neighbour. ■

Jon Emont in Hong Kong contributed to this article. ©wsj

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