Two Reuters journalists, accused of breaching Myanmar’s official secrets act during their reporting of the Rohingya crisis, have been sentenced to seven years each in jail by a Yangon court.
“Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were originally detained in last December, after working on an investigation into the mass killing of a number of Rohingya villagers in Myanmar’s Rakhine state,” CNN reported.
However, the accused journalists maintained that neither of them had done anything wrong.
Shortly after the announcement of the verdict, Stephen Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief stated that the conviction was “a sad day” for the organisation, the two men (Wa and Kyaw) and “the press everywhere.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson in a tweet called the conviction a hammer blow against media freedom in Myanmar.
“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,” Robertson tweeted.
The two journalists had earlier pleaded not guilty to violating the colonial-era act, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority ethnic group in Myanmar and are considered to be illegal immigrants. More than 700,000 of them are languishing in Bangladeshi refugee camps, after fleeing a brutal Myanmar army campaign in August last year.