Myanmar journalists arrested as Aung San Suu Kyi in global spotlight

Myanmar journalists arrested as Aung San Suu Kyi in global spotlight

A court in Myanmar sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison for illegal possession of official documents, on 3 September, a ruling that comes as worldwide criticism mounts over the military's alleged human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims.

"How can Myanmar judicial system justify sending reporters doing their job to a longer prison sentence than the Tatmadaw soldiers who killed the 10 Rohingya in their story in cold blood?" he asked in a post on Twitter. The birth heightened outrage at the pair's incarceration in a case widely seen by rights groups as a sham.

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

The protesters demanded the immediate release of the two Reuters reporters, saying their arrests violate the public's right to information.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere", Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said in a statement. The Myanmar Police Force announced that the journalists were arrested for "illegally obtaining and possessing government documents", with the intent "to send them to a foreign news agency". As several appeals for bail had earlier been rejected, the only way out is for the defence to appeal to the regional court first and then the Supreme Court.

"Unbelievable! More and more, responsible journalism is found to be a crime in Myanmar!"

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi chose to focus on terrorism when addressing the topic of Rohingya at a speech in Singapore last month.

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"I was shocked today in the morning, when I woke up and learned that these two journalists from Reuters have been imposed a sentence of seven years of jail."
They contended they were framed by police after exposing extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims by the military in Rakhine state. When Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations and governor of New Mexico, and a friend of Suu Kyi's, brought up the journalists' case in his role as a member of an advisory commission her government formed, she "exploded" at him, he said in an interview.

They were reporting on the murder of 10 Rohingya men by the army in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine in Myanmar.

Adler said Reuters would consider "whether to seek relief in an global forum".

Britain's Ambassador to Myanmar Dan Chugg said he was "extremely disappointed" by the guilty verdict. It called for the men's immediate release.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is considering whether it has jurisdiction over events in Rakhine, while the United States, the European Union and Canada have sanctioned Myanmar military and police officers over the crackdown.

"The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts' willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities", said Human Rights Watch's Asia director Brad Adams.

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