Two journalists who investigated the killings of 10 Rohingya Muslims have been sentenced to seven years each in jail for breaking Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, a Yangon court has decided.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were detained in December 2017, after working on an investigation into the mass killing of a number of Rohingya villagers in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Reportedly, following the verdict, Kyaw maintained their innocence but added that they were unsurprised by the verdict. “We didn’t go anything wrong,” he said. “We’re not exactly shocked by the verdict.”
Their boss, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Adler, said that the conviction was “a sad day” for the organization, the two men and “the press everywhere.”
Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson echoed the sentiment in a tweet, calling it a “hammer blow” for a free press in the country.
This conviction of the 2 Reuters reporters is a hammer blow against media freedom in #Myanmar, showing just how afraid the #Tatmadaw & #Myanmar government are of investigative journalism and critical commentary customarily found in a real democracy. #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo @hrw pic.twitter.com/xmRWol9CPT
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) September 3, 2018
Both journalists were charged with breaching the colonial-era act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, in July. The two men pleaded not guilty.
More than 700,000 Rohingya, a minority Muslim group, have been forced to flee Myanmar into Bangladesh as a result of the campaign of violence.