Myanmar court rejects Reuters reporters' appeal, journalists face 7 years in prison over reportage on Rohingya genocide

A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act. The journalists were charged under the stringent Act over their investigation of atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims.

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

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are escorted by police as they leave after a court hearing in Yangon. Reuters

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are escorted by police as they leave after a court hearing in Yangon. Reuters

The duo were arrested in Yangon in December 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in jail for violating the state secrets act, a charge supporters say is trumped up.  At the time of the arrest they were probing a massacre of 10 Rohingya.

The two men have insisted they were the victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said a 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.

Outside the country, the two men have been hailed as heroes and jointly named Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2018, alongside other persecuted and slain journalists.

But they have gained little sympathy within Myanmar.

The violent military campaign in 2017 forced more than 720,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh, with refugees bringing accounts of murder, rape and arson.

UN investigators have called for top generals to be investigated for genocide and singled out civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for criticism for failing to stop the crackdown.
The image of the formerly renowned champion of human rights has been further damaged by the Reuters trial, and she has yet to speak up in their defence.

Speaking to AFP just before the verdict was due, Reporters Without Borders representative Daniel Bastard said it would be "utterly devastating" if the court upholds the verdict.
"The message that Myanmar authorities would send is absolutely dreadful: seven years in prison, this is the price you'll have to pay if you dare investigate subjects we don't want you to."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 13:23 PM

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