The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists for defending press freedom, today expressed disappointment over the decision of Myanmar’s Supreme Court to reject the appeal of two Reuters journalists jailed for reporting on alleged abuses by the country’s security forces.
The Supreme Court did not provide a reason for its decision, according to news reports. The two journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were sentenced in September 2018 by a district court to seven years in prison for violating Myanmar’s Offical Secrets Act. The country’s High Court upheld the verdict in January.
The two journalists have spent 16 months in prison since their arrests in December 2017.
“The sentencing of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo represented a serious miscarriage of justice and it is deeply unfortunate that the Supreme Court failed to right this wrong”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being deprived of their freedom for doing their job as journalists. Their imprisonment is a grave blow to independent journalism in Myanmar and undermines the credibility of the country’s democracy.”
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained on December 12, 2017, while meeting with two police officers at a restaurant. The pair’s arrest was in connection with articles they had written on the crisis in Rakhine state, where an estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on Rohingya militants.
The Ministry of Information in Myanmar said at the time that the journalists had been arrested for possessing illegally acquired secret government information and documents, allegedly given to them by the two police officers at the restaurant.