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Reuters journalists lose appeal, will remain in prison

The two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar for reporting on violence against Moslems lost their appeal on Friday. A high court upheld their guilty verdict and seven-year prison sentences.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (photo) were jailed last year after being found guilty of breaching the country’s Official Secrets Act. It was claimed they were in possession of classified documents.

Their trial was widely criticised, with human rights groups and foreign governments accusing the Myanmar regime of using the courts to target the two reporters for their reporting on the military-led massacre of Rohingya Moslems.

Both men have continued to stress their innocence, alleging they were handed classified documents, which was used as evidence they had breached secrecy laws, without their knowledge in a police set-up.

The appeal against the verdict, which was filed in November, argued that “compelling evidence” of the arrest being a set-up by the police, as well as violations in due process and key holes in the prosecution’s case, had been ignored.

Stephen Adler, Reuters editor-in-chief, said the rejection of the appeal was “yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo”.

“They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth. Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt.”

The appeal was also condemned by Amnesty International. It said the ruling “perpetuates an appalling injustice”. 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”.

Since they were jailed in September, there has been a groundswell of support for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo internationally, with the pair handed awards for their journalism. They were also among the persecuted journalists named as Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2018.

Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar state counsellor who was once a leading human rights advocate, has resisted calls to pardon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the most recent of which came from US vice president Mike Pence during a meeting with her in November. ■

The Guardian