Burmese journalists lose appeal against seven-year sentence

Elias Hubbard
January 11, 2019

The two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar for their reporting on the violence against the Rohingya in Rahkine state have lost their appeal, with the court upholding their guilty verdict and lengthy prison sentences.

The defence did not provide enough evidence they were innocent, he said.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

Before their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar's Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.

The reporters can now appeal to the country's Supreme Court, which could take about six months.

Aung Naing, a judge at the Yangon regional high court, said Friday the original verdict was "not wrong according to the law" and was a "reasonable decision".

United Nations investigators have called for top generals to be investigated for genocide and singled out civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for criticism for failing to stop the crackdown.

The judge said the defendants did not follow journalistic ethics and that the court could not determine whether the arrest of the reporters was a trap.

"(The decision) shows her contempt and the contempt in the country for global opinion", Zawacki said.

"The decision to keep these two fearless and innocent Reuters journalists behind bars plays in the hands of the Myanmar authorities' attempt to hide the truth about the atrocities committed in Rakhine", Amnesty's Director of Crisis Response Tirana Hassan said in a statement.

"One day in prison was already an injustice".

New UN Commissioner condemns sentencing of journalists in Myanmar.

"We are very disappointed about today's judgment", said the journalists' defence lawyer Than Zaw Aung, adding that the decision would have a "negative impact" on the country and its media.

The appeal was also condemned by Amnesty International, who said the ruling "perpetuates an appalling injustice" while the chief executive of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, said that "yet again Myanmar's justice system has turned its backs on the principles of rule of law and respect for rights that are the litmus test of democracy".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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