Bangkok, January 11, 2019–A Myanmar court upheld today the conviction of Reuters news agency reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both of whom are serving seven year sentences for violating the Official Secrets Act, Reuters reported.
“Myanmar has squandered yet another opportunity to right the egregious wrong committed against Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.
“Today’s ruling shows that independent journalism is now effectively a crime in Myanmar. If the nation wants to be taken seriously as a functioning democracy, the reporters should be released immediately,” Crispin said.
Myanmar’s High Court in Yangon rejected the reporters’ appeal of their September convictions, ruling that their defense had not provided sufficient evidence to establish their innocence, according to news reports.
High Court Judge Aung Naing was quoted in news reports saying that the reporters’ seven-year jail sentences given by a lower court were “suitable punishment.”
The reporters’ defense lawyers argued in their appeal that the lower court had wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants and that state prosecutors had failed to prove they possessed or disseminated illegal secret information, or had any intention of harming national security, news reports said.
They also argued that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were set up by police, who planted the supposedly secret documents on the reporters after a dinner meeting in December 2017. At the time of their arrests, the reporters were investigating a security force massacre of Rohingya men and boys in western Rakhine State.
Seven soldiers were later sentenced to prison for their involvement in the killings, the reports said.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo may appeal today’s ruling to Myanmar’s supreme court, news reports said. The journalists’ defense lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said his team planned to discuss the option of another appeal with the reporters, the reports said.