United Nations urges Myanmar to free Reuters reporters 'immediately'

United Nations urges Myanmar to free Reuters reporters 'immediately'

In his hour-long judgement, Yangon Northern District Court judge U Ye Lwin said the two reporters, who work for the Reuters news agency, had not followed "journalism ethics" and that journalists in Myanmar are duty-bound to respect state secrets.

Wa Lone's wife and daughter, born last month, were not present in the court.

A United Nations report last week asserted that the military's actions were genocidal and called on Myanmar military leaders, including the commander in chief, to be investigated and prosecuted over war crimes and crimes against humanity. As several appeals for bail had earlier been rejected, the only way out is for the defence to appeal to the regional court first and then the Supreme Court. "If any person for any objective prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State, obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is meant to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy", says the Act.

Addressing the media after the sentencing, Kyaw Soe Oo said, "What I want to say to the government is: you can put us in jail, but do not close the eyes and ears of the people". "These sentences mark a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights under Aung San Suu Kyi's government".

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere".

"We will not wait while Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo suffer this injustice and will evaluate how to proceed in the coming days, including whether to seek relief in an worldwide forum".

The reporters had told the court they had received the confidential documents from two police officials at a restaurant moments before they were detained.

The court earlier this year declined to stop the trial after an initial phase of presentation of evidence, even though a policeman called as a prosecution witness testified that his commander had ordered that documents be planted on the journalists.

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They had been arrested last December while carrying official documents given to them by police.

Kyaw Soe Oo said that while being investigated he was deprived of sleep, forced to kneel for hours and had a black hood placed over his head.

U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel, who attended the hearing, said he was troubled by the turn of events.

The two journalists had been reporting a year ago on Myanmar's brutal crackdown against the Rohingya in the country's western state of Rakhine.

British Ambassador Dan Chugg, who was in court for Monday's verdict, said the case has "struck a hammer-blow to the rule of law in Myanmar".

Britain called for the "immediate" release of two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar on Monday, saying the verdict had "undermined freedom of the media".

How were the Reuters reporters arrested?

They were focused on the massacre of 10 Rohingya by police and soldiers in the village of Inn Din.

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