Myanmar: Guilty verdict against Reuters journalists sends stark warning on press freedom
Responding to the news that Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been sentenced to seven years in jail after being found guilty of breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response, said:
“Today’s appalling verdict has condemned two innocent men to years behind bars. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo face lengthy jail terms simply because they dared to ask uncomfortable questions about military atrocities in Rakhine State. These convictions must be quashed, and both men immediately and unconditionally released.
“This politically-motivated decision has significant ramifications for press freedom in Myanmar. It sends a stark warning to other journalists in the country of the severe consequences that await should they look too closely at military abuses. This amounts to censorship through fear.
“Today’s verdict cannot conceal the truth of what happened in Rakhine State. It’s thanks to the bravery of journalists like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, that the military’s atrocities have been exposed. Instead of targeting these two journalists, the Myanmar authorities should have been going after those responsible for killings, rape, torture and the torching of hundreds of Rohingya villages.”
Arrests of Reuters journalists
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, on 12 December 2017. At the time, the two men had been investigating military operations in northern Rakhine State. These operations were marked by crimes against humanity targeting the Rohingya population, including deportation, unlawful killings, rape, torture and burning of homes and villages.
The two journalists were held incommunicado for two weeks before being transferred to Yangon’s Insein prison. The Official Secrets Act – one of a number of repressive laws in Myanmar – carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.