Two journalists from the international news agency Reuters were jailed in Myanmar on Monday. Wa Lone and Kyaw Seo Oo were found guilty of breaking the Official Secrets Act, for possessing classified documents.
They were both sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Their time in jail since December last year will be deducted from their prison term.
The pair pleaded not guilty. They maintained that they were operating normally, as journalists, reporting on the civil war torn state of Rakhine. They also said that they were deliberately tricked into their current position. They were invited to dinner by members of the police, who handed them documents. Shortly afterwards, they were arrested by other police officers.
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.
The journalist had been reporting on the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men. The Myanmar military said it was conducting legitimate measures counter insurgency measure. It later confirmed that the 10 had been killed.
Western countries and non-government organizations were quick to condemn the court verdict. It’s deeply troubling.. one has to ask will this process increase or decrease the confidence the People of Myanmar have in their justice system,” said U.S. ambassador Scot Marciel.
The United Nations has consistently called for the release of the Reuters journalists and urged the authorities to respect their right to pursue freedom of expression and information.” said Knut Osby, U.N. resident and coordinator in Myanmar.
A U.N. report last week revealed a report that was the conclusion of a year-long fact finding mission in Myanmar. It said that the Myanmar army had engaged in mass killings and gang rapes with “genocidal intent.”