15 November 2018

UK calls for immediate release of Reuters journalists

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The U.K. has called for the immediate release of two Reuters journalists imprisoned by a Myanmar court for reporting on the atrocities targeting Rohingya minority in the country. informs citing AA.

“As our Ambassador to Burma [Myanmar], who attended the hearing, has said, we are extremely disappointed with this verdict and sentencing,” British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said Monday.

“And we call for the journalists to be released immediately. In any democracy, journalists must be free to carry out their jobs without fear or intimidation. This verdict has undermined freedom of the media in Myanmar,” he added.

A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair and that he believed in "democracy and freedom of speech".

Also expressing his "extreme disappointment", British Foreign Office Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field said the journalists were sentenced for nothing more than "doing their jobs".

"They provided valuable reporting on abhorrent human rights violations in Rakhine State, and I have consistently called for their immediate release, including directly with the Burmese government," Field said.

"This is a bad day for Burma, but those of us who have consistently called for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s freedom will not give up," he added.

London-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) said the convictions of the journalists “signals another failure by the National League for Democracy administration to protect human rights and press freedom in Burma, and stands in stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by the military for the crimes that these reporters exposed.”

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s sentence shows how the Burmese state -- under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership -- punishes those who expose the military’s atrocities,” said BHRN Executive Director Kyaw Win.

“This verdict must be overturned, and justice and accountability served in the case of the war crimes that these brave journalists reported on,” he added.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo uncovered the murder of 10 Rohingya men buried in a mass grave in Inn Din village; their reporting demonstrated how the murders were systematically carried out by Burmese security forces, the statement from BHRN said.

The convictions of two journalists drew a large scale international criticism as well.

The U.S., the EU and various international human rights organizations denounced the imprisonment of the journalists and urged for their release.

2018.09.03 / 18:39
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