Burmese journalists lose appeal against seven-year sentence

Evarado Alatorre
Enero 12, 2019

Lawyers representing the young men said the Yangon Regional High Court, in its ruling expected later Friday, could uphold the sentences, reduce the terms or quash the convictions.

"They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth", said Adler.

European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt, who also was at court, described the ruling as "a great disappointment and a missed opportunity to correct a wrong that has been committed against the two journalists".

"Today's ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo".

The defense has the option of making a further appeal to the Supreme Court in Naypyitaw. "Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this awful wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar's commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt".

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo prepares to leave the court after being sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2018.

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 appeal was also condemned by Amnesty International, who said the ruling "perpetuates an appalling injustice" while the chief executive of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, said that "yet again Myanmar's justice system has turned its backs on the principles of rule of law and respect for rights that are the litmus test of democracy".

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Before their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar's Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017. "I believe the two will be freed", she said.

"The decision to keep these two fearless and innocent Reuters journalists behind bars plays in the hands of the Myanmar authorities' attempt to hide the truth about the atrocities committed in Rakhine", Amnesty's Director of Crisis Response Tirana Hassan said in a statement.

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"We hope for freedom for them", Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer for the journalists, told AFP Thursday, adding that the pair will not be present in court.

At the time of the arrest they were probing a massacre of 10 Rohingya.

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.

Reporters Without Borders representative Daniel Bastard said it would be "utterly devastating" if the court upholds the verdict.

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