Myanmar police ordered set up of Reuters journalists: testimony

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo carries his daughter Moe Thin Wai Zin during a break at the court hearing in Yangon, Myanmar April 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Myanmar police ordered set up of Reuters journalists: testimony

  • Myanmar has been accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.
  • The military has denied allegations that the armed forces committed atrocities with the exception of the September massacre in Inn Din village.

Yangon: A Myanmar police chief ordered officers to set up a Reuters reporter by handing over sensitive documents to him in a sting operation that also ensnared his colleague, a police official told a court Friday.
Reporters Wa Lone, 32 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28 were detained in December after meeting police for dinner in Yangon and accused of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act for possessing material relating to operations in conflict-hit Rakhine state.
They were arrested while investigating a September 2 massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, but their report was published while they were behind bars.
Myanmar has been accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya after some 700,000 fled to Bangladesh following a brutal military crackdown on insurgents in August.
The military has denied allegations that the armed forces committed atrocities with the exception of the September massacre in Inn Din village for which seven soldiers were sentenced to 10-year prison terms.
For months now a Yangon court has been hearing testimony to decide whether the Reuters journalists will go to trial even as global criticism of the case has rained down on Myanmar and prominent rights attorney Amal Clooney joined the legal team.
Deputy police major Moe Yan Naing said in his appearance Friday that he had been questioned about meeting Wa Lone in November and that his superior then set up a sting in which he told others to pass on sensitive security documents.
“Police Brig. Tin Ko Ko asked Htauk Kyant (township) police members to arrest Wa Lone after Lance Corporal Naing Lin handed the documents to Wa Lone when they left,” he said, describing orders to “get” the reporter.
Kyaw Soe Oo accompanied Wa Lone to the restaurant meeting and was also arrested.
Yangon police officials could not be reached for comment.
Moe Yan Naing said he was angry that his name had been mentioned in the aftermath of the sting as someone who was under scrutiny.
He is facing charges of breaching police regulations and was brought to the hearing from detention.
The prosecution argued that he should be declared a hostile witness as his testimony differed from what he had told police investigators, but the Reuters defense team praised his remarks as genuine.
“He answered all this by taking risk for himself,” lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.
A judge will hear arguments about the motion next week.
In brief comments to AFP as he arrived at the court in the morning, Moe Yan Naing said he was “going to tell the whole truth” in his appearance.
Myanmar lifted many restrictions on the press as it emerged from five decades of military rule in 2011 but critics have accused Aung San Suu Kyi’s new government of backsliding on previous reforms and failing to protect free expression.


Biopic tribute to slain war reporter Marie Colvin as journalism comes ‘under attack’

Updated 22 October 2018
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Biopic tribute to slain war reporter Marie Colvin as journalism comes ‘under attack’

  • The movie, which got its world premiere in Toronto last month, hits screens as reporters face ever more threats
  • American war correspondent Marie Colvin died in an alleged government bombardment of a media center in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs

LONDON: A biopic of war correspondent Marie Colvin, who died in Syria in 2012, is a celebration of journalism as it increasingly comes “under attack,” according to the film-makers.
“A Private War,” released in US cinemas next month, chronicles the harrowing career of Colvin — played by “Gone Girl” star Rosamund Pike — who was an award-winning journalist for Britain’s The Sunday Times.
The feature film debut of director Matthew Heineman — an Oscar nominee in 2016 for his documentary “Cartel Land” — shows the reporter’s struggles to cope with the impact of reporting from the world’s conflict zones.
For Heineman, whose mother was a journalist, it is a “homage” to both Colvin and an increasingly besieged profession.
“It’s so important right now in this world of fake news and soundbites, where journalists are under attack, to celebrate journalism and to celebrate people like Marie,” he said at a London Film Festival screening Saturday.
The movie, which got its world premiere in Toronto last month, hits screens as reporters face ever more threats.
Actor Jamie Dornan — of the “Fifty Shades” franchise — who plays freelance photographer and longtime Colvin colleague Paul Conroy, said the work felt “timely.”
“This is a film about telling the truth,” he said on the red carpet. “Anything that can try to show true journalism in its finest light — the people who will go to these places to risk everything to tell us the truth — that’s a good thing.”
American Colvin died aged 56, alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik, in an alleged government bombardment of a media center in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs.
“A Private War,” adapted from a Vanity Fair article following her death, depicts her decades-spanning career and the psychological and physical toll it took on her.
It captures Colvin losing the sight of one eye — leading to her wearing a signature eyepatch — while covering Sri Lanka’s civil war, and interviewing former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi shortly before his death in 2011.
The film also shows her retreating into heavy drinking and battling likely post-traumatic stress disorder in between assignments.
Oscar-nominated Pike said she was attracted to the part by Colvin’s complexity.
“I wanted to put a woman out there on the screen who is admirable but not every quality she has is admirable,” she said.
“There was something about... the fierceness of passion in what she did that I related to.”
Photographer Conroy, who was injured by the bombing that killed Colvin but made a full recovery, said he was eager to advise on the film in part because of Heineman’s background in documentaries.
“His idea of the truth carried through from that — it wasn’t just ‘let’s make this frothy Hollywood film’,” he said at the screening. “The attention to detail is extraordinary.”
Heineman said he spent months researching the story, including watching practically every war film ever made.
He also enlisted locals rather than actors to play the parts of extras in the war zones portrayed.
“Those are real Syrian women shedding real tears and telling real stories,” he explained of scenes showing Colvin interviewing civilians in Syria.
“That was really important to me to try to bring an authenticity to this experience.”
The director said making “City of Ghosts,” a 2017 non-fiction film about a Syrian media activist group in Raqqa, and other conflict-driven documentaries helped him empathize with Colvin.
“I just felt enormous kinship with her, and also her desire to put a human face to poor innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire of these geo-political conflicts,” he added.