Reuters journalists lose Supreme Court appeal against seven-year sentence


NAY PYI TAW — Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal of two Reuters journalists imprisoned for breaking the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, upholding their sentence of seven years each in prison, in a case that has been widely criticized as an assault on press freedom.

Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 while investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men by Rakhine civilians and Myanmar security forces during a military campaign against the Muslim minority in Rakhine State.

A Yangon district court judge sentenced the pair to seven years each in prison in September 2018, ruling that they possessed “secret” documents that could have damaged national security.

Defence lawyers appealed on the grounds that the journalists were set up by police, a claim supported by a police witness for the prosecution, who had testified that documents were planted on the pair.

The Yangon High Court rejected an earlier appeal in January, on the grounds that lawyers acting on behalf of the two journalists had failed to submit sufficient evidence proving their innocence.

After that ruling, Reporters Without Borders urged authorities in Myanmar to end the “nightmare”.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s investigation into military atrocities committed in Rakhine State was completed by their colleagues at Reuters and published in 2018. Earlier this month it won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

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