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Myanmar Jails 2 Reuters Journalists For 7 Years Over Rohingya Reporting

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 0
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| September 3 , 2018 , 10:42 IST

Myanmar on Monday sentenced two Reuters journalists to 7 years in prison on charges of violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act over their reporting of a massacre of the Rohingya people. The United Nations soon after released a statement calling for the release of the jailed journalists, adding on to protests demanding for their release.

Yangon northern district judge Ye Lwin said that the accused, identified as 32-year-old Wa Lone and 28-year-old Kyaw Soe Oo, breached the Official Secrets Act when they collected and obtained confidential documents.

"The defendants ... have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years. The time already served by the defendants from Dec 12 will be taken into consideration," the judge said.

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The Reuters journalists Lone and Soe Oo were originally detained in December 2017 after they worked on an investigation into the mass killing of several Rohingya villagers in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

Both of the Reuters journalists testified in court that they were not guilty and that 2 police officers whom they had not previously met had given them the papers relating to their investigation into the Rohingya incident during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant. Soon after, they were both arrested by plainclothes officers.

Reuters had published a special investigation featuring bylines of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo which documented the killing of 10 Rohingya men reportedly carried out by Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops. The report included photographs, reporting and interviews to reconstruct the final moments of the deceased, which included fishermen, shopkeepers, teenage students and a religious teacher.

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

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled persecution from the Rakhine province of Myanmar for Bangladesh since August 2017, after they were declared stateless by the predominantly Buddhist nation.

While the UN has described the military offensive in Rakhine as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing", the Myanmar military claims it is fighting Rohingya militants and not targeting civilians.