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Myanmar leader urged to help free jailed Reuters reporters

The treatment of two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar is outrageous and Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and head of the government, should raise her voice in an effort to have them pardoned, the Financial Times said on Monday.

The case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (photo) who had their appeal against a seven-year sentence rejected last week, having been found guilty in September of illegal possession of government documents under the Official Secrets Act, refocuses attention on how little influence she is willing or able to exert over the armed forces, it said in an editorial.

“There can be little doubt that the two journalists have been found guilt for simply, and courageously, doing their jobs,” the FT said.

The charges against the journalists were designed to discourage more press scrutiny of the military campaign against the country’s minority Rohingya community, the FT said. During their trial, a police witness admitted that, when it came to official documents found in their possession, Wa Lone and Kyaw She Oo were set up. The government has not denied that the massacre they were investigating occurred and last year several soldiers were imprisoned for their involvement in it.

“Although Aung San Suu Kyi has defended the decision to jail the journalists and denied they have been subject to a miscarriage of justice, she can yet raise her voice in an effort to have them pardoned. Freedom of the press is a minimum to expect from a once doughty campaigner for that cause,” the FT said.

“The journalists have offended powerful interests. For more than half a century, Myanmar’s people and economy have endured appalling corruption at the hands of once reclusive military leaders in a country largely hidden from the world. Since Myanmar more recently opened its borders, the chances for corruption have increased as China, with its Belt and Road Initiative, and other Asian powers vie for influence and business.

“As for the west’s response, it is hard to argue for engagement with a regime alleged to have engaged in genocide. The EU and US should treat Myanmar more like, for instance, Hun Sen’s Cambodia, threatening sanctions where fundamental rights are suppressed.

“In her time as a vociferous opponent of oppression, Aung San Suu Kyi represented a tribute to the human spirit. In the new Myanmar, it has fallen to journalists such as Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to confront the kind of abuses she fought against. Their cause was just; their imprisonment a grave injustice.” ■

Financial Times