Reuters journalists say deprived of sleep during Myanmar probe

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo leaves after a court hearing in Yangon, Myanmar, on June 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Ann Wang)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Reuters journalists say deprived of sleep during Myanmar probe

  • The two reporters were ‘not allowed to sleep’ for three consecutive days during the initial police probe after their detention on December 12
  • Global advocates for press freedom, human rights activists, as well the United Nations and several Western countries, have called for the release of the Reuters journalists

YANGON: Two Reuters reporters accused in Myanmar of possessing secret documents were subjected to sleep deprivation and asked if they were “spies” during police interrogations, their lawyers suggested during questions posed to a police witness on Monday.
Cross-examining Police Captain Myint Lwin at a court in Yangon, defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung asked if he was aware the two reporters were “not allowed to sleep” for three consecutive days during the initial police probe after their detention on December 12.
He also asked the witness whether reporter Kyaw Soe Oo was “forced to kneel down” on the floor for more than three hours during questioning by investigators.
In what has become a landmark press freedom case, the court in Yangon has been holding hearings since January to decide whether Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, and his Reuters colleague Wa Lone, 32, will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The alleged offenses carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Captain Myint Lwin, the officer in charge of the Yangon police station that conducted the preliminary inquiry after the pair were arrested, denied the reporters were deprived of sleep or made to kneel, saying officers were not allowed to “do such a thing” under his command.
He also denied, under cross-examination, that the reporters were sent to a specialist interrogation facility after their arrests, saying they were detained at the police station in northern Yangon until his team finalized the preliminary probe and handed the case to a police crime investigation unit on December 26.
After the hearing, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo confirmed details of their treatment, telling reporters they had been questioned every two hours for about three days after their arrests by different officers, who asked if they were “spies.”
Wa Lone said it was “completely untrue” that they had remained in a regular police station.
“It is mental and physical torture,” a second defense lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters after Monday’s proceedings, adding that evidence gathered through such methods was unlawful and should not be presented to the court.
Prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung declined to comment at the end of the hearing.
Police spokesman Myo Thu Soe, contacted by telephone, said he was not aware of the matter and declined to comment.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay was not immediately available for comment after Monday’s hearing. Previously, he has declined to comment on the case or the conduct of the investigation, saying Myanmar’s courts are independent and the case would be conducted according to the law.
Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement the news agency had long been deeply concerned about how the reporters were treated during their interrogation.
“No one, including Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, should be subject to mistreatment of the kind they describe,” he said.
“It is for this reason, and many others, that we hope the court will bring this matter to an end as swiftly as possible, and restore the press’s confidence in its ability to work safely and responsibly in Myanmar.”
At the time of their arrest, the reporters had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The killings took place during a military crackdown that United Nations agencies say sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.
The reporters have told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before, having been invited to meet the officers for dinner.
After the hearing, Kyaw Soe Oo, in handcuffs, told reporters that he was made to kneel on the floor for “three to four hours” when he refused to give the address of a hotel where he had been staying in Yangon or divulge details of the Reuters investigation.
Global advocates for press freedom, human rights activists, as well the United Nations and several Western countries, have called for the release of the Reuters journalists.
On Monday, diplomats from the European Union and France — as well as others — observed the proceedings.
The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.


Saudi Royal Court adviser confirms tough stance on piracy amid row over Qatar’s World Cup broadcasts

Updated 50 min 7 sec ago
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Saudi Royal Court adviser confirms tough stance on piracy amid row over Qatar’s World Cup broadcasts

  • In an interview with CNN, Saud Al-Qahtani commented on the allegations that Saudi Arabia has supported Beout Q, dismissing claims that it is Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to remove it from the Arabsat satellite.
  • The Royal Court adviser stressed the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia views the issue of piracy.

DUBAI: An adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court has underlined the Kingdom’s tough stance on piracy, following allegations that the country had supported a channel broadcasting World Cup games illegally.
The pirate channel, called “Beout Q,” has broadcast games for which the rights are held by Qatar’s BeIN Sports network, which is itself embroiled in a row over its coverage of the football tournament.
In an interview with CNN Arabic, Saudi Royal Court adviser Saud Al-Qahtani commented on the allegations that Saudi Arabia has supported Beout Q, dismissing claims that it is the Kingdom’s responsibility to remove it from the Arabsat satellite.
He told CNN: “First of all, who said that the ‘pirated’ broadcast is from Arabsat? And do we even how the piracy was done? From my side, I have not read (anything) but accusations about the matter. Anyway, this is question that should be asked to Arabsat and not to me.”
He pointed out that Arabsat is affiliated with all members of the Arab League, and so questions over the Beout Q channel should not be addressed to Saudi Arabia alone.
The Royal Court adviser stressed the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia views the issue of piracy.
“The Kingdom respects the protection of intellectual rights and is committed to the international agreements in the context. It has also been known about the Kingdom how unforgiving it is about piracy,” he said.
“The piracy problem is an international one. There are many other states that took similar actions and confiscated piracy devices, like Kuwait and Oman. We cannot forget that there is a similar problem in several Asian and European countries as well. Above of all that, some videos show that Beout Q is diffused in Doha, even in public places.”
Regarding the Kingdom’s intention to launch a network of channels to compete with the Qatar-owned stations, Al-Qahtani said: “In Saudi Arabia, we do not take decisions based on reactions to what others do. Currently, what matters to us is for the broadcast rights of international sports competitions to be given fairly, ensuring that no state exploits the broadcast of games to pass political agendas on the account of Olympic protocols, as Qatar is currently doing.”
Al-Qahtani confirmed that Saudi Arabia is taking legal measures against the Qatar-owned BeIN Sports network for mixing sport with politics in its coverage of the ongoing football tournament.
Numerous comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) to complain to FIFA earlier this week, saying the Qatar-owned broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
“The Qatari channel’s comments are a massive abuse against my country and the Saudi people,” Al-Qahtani told CNN Arabic.
“The Qatari monopoly has become a disaster to football fans. We are demanding an intervention to break the monopoly of BeIN Sports to avoid further aggravation.”
One BeIN commentator accused Riyadh of “selling the Palestinian cause,” while others called for an end of the diplomatic boycott of Qatar by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Experts in the field of sports media earlier confirmed to Arab News that BeIN’s World Cup commentary was a breach of the rules and that Saudi Arabia will have a “case” in the complaint filed to FIFA.
“The ball is in the court of FIFA,” Al-Qahtani told CNN.
“We also demand the activation of Olympics protocols forbidding (BeIN) to use sports to pass its political agenda, as this has provoked the great anger of Saudi citizens and their Arab brothers who did not want the political differences to break into the world of sports.”
Many famous Arab sports players, media presenters, intellectuals and lawyers have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate.
More than 115,000 people have signed the petition — available at www.sports4everyone.org — in the past few days.
The website presents several examples of BeIN’s politicization of sports during the 2018 World Cup, with many during the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Comments made during that game have been referred to international law firms to take legal action against those involved.
The SAFF demanded FIFA take vigorous action against the Qatari government, which owns the beIN Sports channels.
BeIN holds the rights to broadcast the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa, but its channels are not available in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qahtani said that his tweets criticizing Doha’s policies are directed at the Qatari rulers, and not the Qatari people, whom he considers as “victims” of the regime.
In the interview with CNN, Al-Qahtani noted that the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for handling the Qatari issue, and that his statements are an expression of his own personal view.