World reacts to sentencing of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

World reacts to sentencing of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

World reacts to sentencing of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists in Myanmar have been convicted of violating the country's secrecy laws and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested while carrying official documents which had just been given to them by police officers.

A United Nations report last week asserted that the military's actions were genocidal and called on Myanmar military leaders, including the commander in chief, to be investigated and prosecuted over war crimes and crimes against humanity. The defence can appeal the decision to a regional court and then the supreme court.

The court determined that "confidential documents" found on the two would have been useful "to enemies of the state and terrorist organisations".

The journalists, sentenced to 7 years in jail, said that the verdict threatened the country's democracy. Though the military, which ruled the country for a half-century, maintains control of several key ministries, Suu Kyi's rise to government had raised hopes for an accelerated transition to full democracy and her stance on the Rohingya crisis has disappointed many former admirers.

The journalists had been working on stories about military persecution of Rohingya Muslims, which has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar. and the press everywhere", Stephen J. Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement, adding that the outcome was "designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press".

"I have no fear", Lone, 32, said after the verdict. The reporters who had been detained in December 2017, however, claim that the documents which they have been accused of obtaining illegally had been planted in their hands by a police officer in order to entrap them.

"Freedom of expression and rule of law are fundamental in a democracy, and this case has passed a long shadow over both today", he said.

"I call for their conviction to be quashed and for them to be released, along with all other journalists now in detention for their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression".

In the brief moment before he was hauled back to prison by police, Kyaw Soe Oo told reporters, "We do not agree with the ruling, we did what we had to do as journalists".

British Ambassador Dan Chugg, who was in court for Monday's verdict, said the case has "struck a hammer-blow to the rule of law in Myanmar". "We call on Myanmar's civilian authorities to immediately release the journalists". Documents in their possession and on their phones were "not public information", he said.

The Reuters reporters were arrested on December 12 while investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya and other abuses involving soldiers and police in Inn Din, a village in Rakhine state.

The case has drawn global condemnation as an attempt by Myanmar authorities to muzzle reporting on last year's crackdown by security forces on the Rohingya minority.

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