Court re­jects bail plea for two jour­nal­ists

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - NAW BETTY HAN naw­bet­ty­han@mm­times.com

Two Reuters jour­nal­ists jailed for pos­sess­ing clas­si­fied se­cu­rity-re­lated doc­u­ments failed in their bid to se­cure bail on Thurs­day af­ter a lo­cal court re­jected their re­quest.

A LO­CAL court judge on Thurs­day re­jected the re­quest by two jour­nal­ists of Reuters in­ter­na­tional news agency to post bail while fac­ing trial for pos­ses­sion of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, have been charged with vi­o­lat­ing the coun­try’s colo­nial-era Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act that could sen­tence them to up to 14 years in jail if found guilty of the crime.

The pros­e­cu­tion pre­sented to the court dur­ing the pre­vi­ous hear­ing the al­leged clas­si­fied doc­u­ments that were found on the duo when they were ar­rested, in­clud­ing the dis­po­si­tion of se­cu­rity forces in northern Rakhine State, where a mil­i­tary crack­down has forced more than 650,000 Mus­lims to flee to neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were ar­rested on De­cem­ber 12 in Yangon, shortly af­ter meet­ing with their two po­lice sources, who had al­legedly handed them the doc­u­ments.

The case is viewed by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as an at­tack on press free­dom and the right of the pub­lic to in­for­ma­tion.

The next hear­ing in the trial is set for Tuesday

Sev­eral for­eign ob­servers at­tended Thurs­day’s hear­ing, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can, Bri­tish, Swedish, French Dan­ish and Euro­pean Union diplo­mats

Reuters pres­i­dent and ed­i­tor-in­chief Stephen J. Adler ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment over the denial of bail for the two jour­nal­ists but ex­pressed con­fi­dence the trial will prove their in­no­cence.

“It has now been more than 50 days since they were ar­rested, and they should have the op­por­tu­nity to be with their fam­i­lies as the hear­ings con­tinue,” he said in a state­ment is­sued af­ter the hear­ing.

“We be­lieve the court pro­ceed­ings will demon­strate their in­no­cence and Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo will be able to re­turn to their jobs re­port­ing on events in Myan­mar,” he added.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were al­legedly chas­ing a story about the atroc­i­ties al­legedly per­pe­trated by govern­ment se­cu­rity forces in Rakhine when they were ar­rested.

On Thurs­day, the As­so­ci­ated Press said it ob­tained a video and talked with sev­eral wit­nesses that could prove the al­leged ex­is­tence of more mass graves in northern Rakhine.

The AP re­port claimed that the Us-based in­ter­na­tional news agency was able to con­firm that there are at least five mass graves “all pre­vi­ously un­re­ported.”

The al­leged mass graves can be found in the vil­lage of Gu Dar Pyin, which has re­mained in­ac­ces­si­ble to the me­dia and in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The Myan­mar govern­ment has yet to is­sue a state­ment on the lat­est re­port by AP.

Pho­tos: Zarni Phyo

Reuters jour­nal­ist Wa Lone (left) talks to a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Reuters jour­nal­ist Kyaw Soe Oo hugs his child.

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