Reuters journalists in Myanmar sentenced to 7 years in jail

Reuters journalists in Myanmar sentenced to 7 years in jail

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Two Reuters journalists accused of breaching Myanmar's state secrets law during their reporting of a massacre of Rohingya were sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday (Sep 3).

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were detained last December after a late-night meeting with police officers who handed them documents in what has been described by defense attorneys and press watchdogs as a case of entrapment.

Authorities charged them with violating the colonial-era state secrets act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.

The judge delivered an exhaustive account of the trial and said paper documents found at the time of their arrest, and information subsequently obtained from Wa Lone's smart phone, show that the journalists had consistently tried to obtain confidential government information that could have been passed on "to enemies of the state and terrorist organisations".

The journalists were looking into the deaths of 10 Rohingya at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist villagers in Inn Din, a village in the north of the state.

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"Today is a sad day for Myanmar. and the press everywhere", Stephen J. Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement, denouncing the charges as "false" and "designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press".

"Freedom of expression and rule of law are fundamental in a democracy, and this case has passed a long shadow over both today", he said.

The journalists have maintained their innocence, saying they were set up by the police.

"We're extremely disappointed. It's a bad day for Myanmar and we call for the journalists to be released immediately". "Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be allowed to return to their families and continue their work as journalists".

Their sentencing has sparked global outrage and raised concerns about press freedom.

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They had been arrested last December while carrying official documents given to them by police.

"We are extremely disappointed by this verdict", Britain and the USA have said, saying the court's decision was "deeply troubling for everybody who has struggled so hard here for media freedom". "They can not make us weak", said Wa Lone ahead of the verdict. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the violence targeting them after attacks by Rohingya militants killed a dozen members of the security forces.

But the military acknowledged the killing of the ten Rohingya at Inn Din after arresting the Reuters reporters.

As calls mount for Myanmar's military leaders to face an worldwide tribunal, they have remained defiant, insisting last year's crackdown was a proportionate response to attacks by Rohingya militants on border posts.

The International Criminal Court is considering whether it has jurisdiction over events in Rakhine, while the United States, the European Union and Canada have sanctioned Myanmar military and police officers over the crackdown. On August 27, 2018, the United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar issued a report on the abuses calling for top military generals to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity.

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