Reuters reporters get 7 year sentences in Myanmar "state secrets" case

Reuters reporters get 7 year sentences in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists have been jailed for seven years for breaching Myanmar's official secrets act during their reporting of the Rohingya crisis, a judge said, in a case that has drawn outrage as an attack on media freedom.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the night of December 12, after meeting with two police officers who, according to the defendants, handed them confidential documents, the Efe news reported.

After the journalists' arrest, the military admitted that the killings took place and in April said it had sentenced seven of its soldiers to ten years in prison. "The time already served by the defendants from December 12 will be taken into consideration", the judge, who convicted and sentenced the two Reuters reporters, said while delivering the judgment.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere", Reuters editor in chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement.

"It's deeply troubling for everybody who has struggled so hard here for media freedom".

The verdict is seen as a blow to press freedom in Burma at a time when the country faces global pressure over a military-led crackdown that prompted more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

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The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the sentencing of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, saying it marked a "new low for Myanmar".

The small courtroom was cramped with family members, local and foreign journalists, and diplomats, including the United States and British ambassadors in Myanmar.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty Monday of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act while reporting on government abuses against the country's Rohingya Muslims.

Expressing his disappointment, Knut Ostby, UN resident and humanitarian aid coordinator in Myanmar, called for the release of the journalists.

"I have no fear", Wa Lone, one of the two journalists, said after the verdict.

Dozens of journalists and pro-democracy activists marched on Saturday in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, in support of the reporters.

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

British ambassador Dan Chugg told reporters outside the court, "the verdict today has struck a hammer-blow to the rule of law in Myanmar".

The army has published its version of events at Inn Din village, conceding the Rohingya men were killed while in custody but saying it was a one-off act of abuse by a mix of security forces and ethnic Rakhine locals.

During their investigation, they were offered documents by two police officers, but were arrested immediately afterwards for the possession of those documents.

As calls mount for Myanmar's military leaders to face an global tribunal, they have remained defiant, insisting last year's crackdown was a proportionate response to attacks by Rohingya militants on border posts.

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

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