Jour­nal­ists to face trial in Myan­mar

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - COFFEE BREAK - MIN KYI THEIN

YANGON, Myan­mar — A court in Myan­mar on Mon­day for­mally charged two Reuters jour­nal­ists ac­cused of il­le­gally pos­sess­ing of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion, al­low­ing their case to go to a full trial.

The case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went through sev­eral months of hear­ings to de­ter­mine if there was enough ev­i­dence to sup­port the charge, which the re­porters de­nied.

The two re­porters were charged with vi­o­lat­ing the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act, and if con­victed, could get up to 14 years in prison. They were ar­rested in De­cem­ber and have been de­tained since.

They ap­par­ently were tar­geted by au­thor­i­ties be­cause their work con­cerned the bru­tal crack­down by se­cu­rity forces against Ro­hingya Mus­lims. About 700,000 Ro­hingya have fled to neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh since the crack­down be­gan last Au­gust.

The two jour­nal­ists had worked on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the killing of 10 Ro­hingya vil­lagers in Inn Din vil­lage, for which the gov­ern­ment said seven sol­diers were sen­tenced to up 10 years in prison with hard labour.

The re­porters con­tended they were framed by po­lice, a claim that was sup­ported by tes­ti­mony from a whistle­blower in the po­lice de­part­ment, Moe Yan Naing. Af­ter giv­ing his sur­prise tes­ti­mony, he was jailed for vi­o­lat­ing the Po­lice Dis­ci­plinary Act and his fam­ily was forced to va­cate their po­lice hous­ing unit.

“We did not com­mit any crimes,” Wa Lone said to jour­nal­ists out­side the court­room. He said his re­sponse to the judge’s de­ci­sion was: “We won’t ever give up. To­day’s court de­ci­sion does not mean that we are guilty. We still have the right to a de­fence.”

Reuters urged the au­thor­i­ties to re­lease the two.

“We are deeply dis­ap­pointed that the court de­clined to end this pro­tracted and base­less pro­ceed­ing against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. These Reuters jour­nal­ists were do­ing their jobs in an in­de­pen­dent and im­par­tial way, and there are no facts or ev­i­dence to sug­gest that they’ve done any­thing wrong or bro­ken any law,” Stephen J. Adler, Reuters’ pres­i­dent and edi­tor-in-chief, said in a state­ment.

The mil­i­tary’s ac­tions against the Ro­hingya have come un­der harsh crit­i­cism in­ter­na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing charges that it was car­ry­ing out eth­nic cleans­ing.

MYO KYAW SOE/GETTY IM­AGES

De­tained jour­nal­ist Wa Lone, cen­tre, is es­corted by po­lice from a court­house fol­low­ing his on­go­ing pre-trial hear­ing in Yangon, Mayan­mar, on Mon­day.

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