Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Burmese court rejects appeal by jailed reporters

Reuters, YANGON, Myanmar

Relatives of jailed Reuters reporters leave the Burmese High Court yesterday after their appeal was rejected in Yangon, Myanmar.

Photo: Reuters

The Burmese High Court yesterday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaching the Burmese Official Secrets Act, saying that the defense had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were in September last year convicted by a lower court in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

“It was a suitable punishment,” High Court Judge Aung Naing said.

The defense has the option of making a further appeal to the nation’s Supreme Court.

“Today’s ruling is 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,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

In their appeal arguments made last month, defense lawyers cited evidence of a police setup and lack of proof of a crime.

They told the appeals court that the lower court had wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants.

The defense also said that prosecutors had failed to prove the reporters gathered and collected secret information, sent information to an enemy of Myanmar or intended to harm national security.

Khine Khine Soe, a legal officer representing the government, told the appeal hearing that the evidence showed that the reporters had collected and kept confidential documents with an intent to harm national security and interests.

The judge yesterday said “it was not acceptable” to say that the defendants had acted according to journalistic ethics.

“It cannot be said that it was a setup,” he said.

Standing outside the court building in Yangon where the judgement was pronounced, EU Ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt said that the ruling was a “miscarriage of justice and it gives us great concern for the independence of the justice system of Myanmar.”

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung, speaking after the ruling, said that his team would discuss the option of a Supreme Court appeal with the reporters.

Before their arrest, the reporters had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.

This story has been viewed 14214 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top