Myanmar: UN human rights chief calls for immediate release of Reuters reporters


Two Reuters journalists who have investigated Rohingya killings have been sentenced to 7 years of jail on Monday after the court found them guilty of breaching law on state secrets.

Defendants Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were entrapped by police officers who planted classified documents on them to disrupt their reporting into human rights atrocities in western Rakhine state, according to their defense.

Monday's ruling comes a week after the release of an explosive United Nations-led study into abuses in Rakhine, accusing Myanmar's army chief of heading a campaign of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity" against the Rohingya. "We are disappointed by today's court decision". "If any person for any goal prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State, obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is meant to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy", says the Act.

BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO MYANMAR DAN CHUGG:"Speaking on behalf of the British government but also on behalf of European Union member states, we are extremely disappointed by this verdict". "These sentences mark a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights under Aung San Suu Kyi's government".

Scot Marciel, US ambassador to Myanmar, said he was "sad for Wa lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and their families, but also for Myanmar".

Wa Lone, in handcuffs and flanked by police, told a cluster of friends and reporters after the verdict not to worry.

They told the court they had been invited to dinner by police in Yangon, who handed them documents.

A number of countries including the USA, UK and Bangladesh among others as well as human rights groups have demanded the immediate release of the journalists, reported Al Jazeera.

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The case has sparked an outcry among the global community. The journalists testified they did not solicit or knowingly possess any secret documents.

Reuters published the results of the journalists' investigation in February, after Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were already detained.

He said, "The judge has ignored the evidence in the case and also ignored Myanmar laws".

The journalists were looking into the deaths of 10 Rohingya at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist villagers in Inn Din, a village in the north of the state.

Yangon-based Myanmar journalists, therefore, believe it likely that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo will be released before they have to serve their full sentence.

The Reuters case has attracted more global attention than previous cases, partly because it involves a foreign news agency, but also given the nature of their reporting: atrocities committed against the Rohingyas, which has received worldwide attention.

The case has been widely regarded in the West as an example of stifling press freedom in Myanmar, where a civil government operates at the pleasure of the former military rulers.