Myanmar Supreme Court rejects final appeal for Reuters journalists | News | DW | 23.04.2019
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Myanmar Supreme Court rejects final appeal for Reuters journalists

Myanmar's top court has ruled against two Reuters journalists jailed for seven years for illegally possessing official documents. The pair had won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeal by Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in prison for breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

The journalists' imprisonment has drawn condemnation from press freedom campaigners and raised questions about the country's transition from military rule to democracy.

Read moreMyanmar's Suu Kyi defends jailing of Reuters reporters

The case against the pair:

  • The two journalists were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison last September.
  • They were accused of illegally possessing official documents and violating the Official Secrets Act.
  • The two had been investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in the village of Inn Din.
  • A higher court rejected an initial appeal in January, citing lawyers' failure to prove the reporters' innocence.
  • The reporters insist they were framed by the authorities and that police planted the documents.
  • They are being held in detention in Yangon and were not present for the ruling.

Read moreMyanmar jails journalists — 'More trials and prosecution under civilian government'

'Victims of a police setup'

"They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected," Supreme Court Justice Soe Naing told the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, without providing more details.

"Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did," Gail Gove, Reuters chief counsel, said in a statement after the ruling. "Instead, they were victims of a police setup to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible."

Shortly after the decision was read out, Reuters Thailand bureau chief Matthew Tostevin tweeted, "Terrible news, but we will not lose hope."

Read more: How journalists in Myanmar aim to stop hate speech

Global outcry: The landmark case has been closely watched by international rights groups, who have denounced the conviction as an attack on freedom of the press. The top UN official in Myanmar, Knut Ostby, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be allowed to return to their families and continue their work as journalists," he said.

Highest journalism honor: The court's decision came after Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, and their colleagues were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation that uncovered the military's involvement in Rohingya killings.

nm,dj/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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