Reporters' Ordeal Continues After Myanmar Court Rejects Appeal

(Bloomberg) -- Two journalists jailed for breaching the country’s official secrets act had an appeal against their seven year sentence rejected today by a Myanmar court.

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained on Dec. 12, 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Security forces in Rakhine have been blamed for rights abuses against Rohingya that sparked the exodus of some 650,000 people to neighboring Bangladesh.

Judge Aung Naing of Yangon’s High Court upheld their conviction, telling a packed court room: "It is obvious that they obtained top secret documents."

They both pleaded not guilty, with Reuters citing “compelling evidence of a police set-up.” Lawyer for the journalists, U Than Zaw Aung, told reporters outside the court they were considering appealing to the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw.

"Today’s ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo," Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement. "They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth."

‘Not Guilty’

EU ambassador to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt, expressed disappointment over the ruling. “We call for these journalists’ release immediately and unconditionally," Schmidt said outside the court. "We’ve been saying very clearly from the beginning that the journalists are not guilty of treason."

International criticism over the case has damaged Myanmar’s reputation, making it harder for companies that sought opportunities in the country after the U.S. lifted broad-based sanctions following its transition to democracy.

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, herself a political prisoner before coming to power, said in September the controversial case “had nothing to do with freedom of expression at all.”

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