Two young Reuters journalists have been sentenced to seven years in prison by a Myanmar court on September 3, 2018. According to BBC, Wa Lone (32) and Kyaw Soe Oo (28) were convicted of violating the country’s state secrets act because they had been in possession of official documents pertaining to a massacre in Rakhine state. The pair has maintained throughout their case that the police had framed them by handing them the documents just before their arrest.
Inquistr reported that the journalists investigated the killing of a group of 10 men on a beach at Inn Din. The Rohingya men had been seeking refuge but it is alleged that the military shot eight of the men, while the other two were hacked to death by villagers on September 2, 2017. Lone and Soe Oo were collecting evidence of the massacre when the police invited them to dinner on December 12. The officials handed them documents about the murders, but upon leaving the restaurant, they were arrested immediately.
The presiding officer, Judge Ye Lwin, found that the reporters had intentions to “harm the interests of the state” and therefore found that they had committed a crime under Myanmar law.
“And so they have been found guilty under the state secrets act.”
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reserved and quiet as the verdict was read, bowing their heads as the judge delivered the sentence. However, their families could not suppress their emotions and broke down crying. The pair has been in detention since their arrest on December 12, with Lone having missed the birth of his first child. Both men have families with young children.
After hearing the verdict, Wa Lone still believed in justice.
“I have no fear. I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.”
“We will face it [the verdict] with stability and courage.”
No words for this outrageous injustice against @Reuters reporters Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo. How can #Myanmar judicial system justify sending reporters doing their job to a longer prison sentence than the #Tatmadaw soldiers who killed the 10 #Rohingya in their story in cold blood? pic.twitter.com/lI2Qp0k6ub— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) September 3, 2018
According to Al Jazeera, there is an international outcry from both the public and world leaders, and the verdict is being called a blow to Myanmar’s new found democracy.
The British ambassador to Myanmar, Dan Chugg, held nothing back in criticizing Judge Ye Lwin.
“The judge has appeared to have ignored evidence and to have ignored Myanmar law. This has dealt a hammer blow for the rule of law.”
Another voice against the sentencing has been Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, who is the media adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has taken in more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees since 2017. He expressed fear for the media publishing stories about the evil inflicted by the Myanmar army and administration.
“It is now an open secret that any media or any person who wants to reveal the atrocities of the Myanmar army and administration against the Rohingya people will face persecution by the Myanmar government.”
The EU ambassador to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt, is calling for the prison sentences of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to be “reviewed and they should be released immediately and unconditionally.”