Myanmar court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters reporters:The Asahi Shimbun

Leroy Wright
January 13, 2019

Explaining his verdict, Judge Aung Naing said the reporters had behaved in a way that showed they meant to harm the country.

A witness for the prosecution against the reporters told a Yangon court at a trial last April that police had entrapped the reporters by giving them secret documents and then arresting them for having the documents.

"Canada is seriously alarmed by today's court decision to uphold the imprisonment of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo".

The two reporters, who were not present at the time of the decision, insisted that they were allegedly victims of a police set-up.

Both Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are both Burmese, have continued to stress their innocence, alleging they were handed classified documents, which was used as evidence they had breached secrecy laws, without their knowledge in a police set-up.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled their homes in Myanmar's Rakhine State to camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Critics have described the campaign as ethnic cleansing, or even genocide on the part of Myanmar security forces.

Kyaw Soe Oo's wife, Chit Su, said the ruling came as a surprise.

"They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth", Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler said in a statement yesterday.

Adler said,"Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this bad wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar's commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt".

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Earlier last month, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the two journalists jailed in Myanmar on charges of breaking the country's Official Secrets Act were innocent and that Britain had serious concerns about due process in the case.

Reacting to the verdict outside the court the European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt said he looked to the president of Myanmar to "correct" the injustice with a possible pardon.

"It casts serious doubts on the independence of the judiciary of Myanmar and for people's right to information and learning the truth", he said. He said they meant to harm national security and the national interest.

"We will continue to advocate at all levels for the just release of these fearless journalists", State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement released on Friday. "We were expecting to welcome them in front of Insein Prison".

The journalists can now appeal their case to Myanmar's Supreme Court.

"I still believe that they will be free", she added.

The defence can now appeal to the Supreme Court, based in the capital Naypyitaw. "We can not stand by and accept this antidemocratic decision.Journalists must have the freedom to report the facts and to defend, expose and advance the truth without fear of retaliation, violence, imprisonment or being killed".

The pair were among a group of journalists named by the Time magazine as its "Person of the Year".

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