Myanmar rejects journalists appeals

Kyaw Soe Oo (left) and Wa Lone after their sentencing in September 2018Image copyright

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Kyaw Soe Oo (left) and Wa Lone have been in prison for one year

A Myanmar court has rejected an appeal by two Reuters reporters convicted of breaking a state secrets act in September.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison in a case widely condemned by other countries and human rights groups.

But in a ruling, Judge Aung Naing called their terms “a suitable punishment”.

The defence did not provide enough evidence they were innocent, he said.

Both were arrested carrying official documents handed to them by police officers.

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

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.

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler called the court’s rejection “yet another injustice” against the pair.

“Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free,” he said in a statement.

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Human rights groups have condemned the case

The reporters can now appeal to the country’s Supreme Court, which could take about six months.

Both men have been in prison for more than a year.

What were they investigating?

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are Myanmar citizens who were working for the international news agency.

They had been collecting evidence about the murders of 10 Rohingya men by the army in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine in September 2017.

They were arrested before the report’s publication, after being handed some documents by two policemen who they met at the restaurant for the first time.

A police witness testified during the trial that the restaurant meeting was a set-up to entrap the journalists.

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These are the men whose deaths the Reuters journalists were investigating

The final report – a collaboration with other colleagues – was considered extraordinary, because it gathered testimonies from a range of participants, including Buddhist villagers who confessed to killing Rohingya Muslims and torching their homes. Accounts from paramilitary police also directly implicated the military.

The military had previously released its own investigation into allegations of abuse in Rakhine, and exonerated itself of all wrongdoing.

Authorities later launched their own probe into the Inn Din killings, confirming the massacre took place and promising to take action against those who had taken part.

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