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A court in Myanmar has rejected an appeal by two Reuters news agency reporters sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the country’s Official Secrets Act, in a case that rallied press freedom advocates.
Lawyers for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had lodged the appeal in November against their conviction, citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime. The appeal argued that the original trial was conducted in an “unjust manner” and had called for the reporters’ immediate release.
But High Court Judge Aung Naing on Friday said the lawyers failed to submit enough evidence to prove the pair’s innocence. He said “it was not acceptable” to say that the defendants had acted according to journalistic ethics.
“It was a suitable punishment,” the judge in Yangon said, referring to the seven-year prison term.
The defence has the option of making a further appeal to the country’s supreme court, based in the capital, Naypyitaw.
“Today’s ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth,” Stephen J. Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement.
“Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt.”
Investigation into Rohingya killings
Before their arrest in December 2017, the two journalists had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys by security forces and local Buddhists in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state during an army crackdown that forced more than 700,000 members of the long-persecuted, mostly-Muslim minority to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.