Myanmar’s top court hears Reuters reporters’ appeal in official secrets case

Supporters of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo hold a rally in Yangon on December 12, 2018 to demand their freedom. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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Myanmar’s top court hears Reuters reporters’ appeal in official secrets case

  • Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have spent more than 15 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017
  • A judge found the two guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September and sentenced them to seven years in prison

NAYPYITAW: Myanmar’s Supreme Court heard the appeal on Tuesday of two Reuters journalists imprisoned for breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, in a case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy.
Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have spent more than 15 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017, while investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslim civilians involving Myanmar soldiers.
A judge found the two guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September and sentenced them to seven years in prison.
Both remain separated from their young daughters. The wife of 32-year-old Wa Lone gave birth to their first child last year while Wa Lone was behind bars. Kyaw Soe Oo celebrated his 29th birthday in Yangon’s Insein jail this month.
“We are expecting to reunite as a family as soon as possible,” Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife, Chit Su Win, told reporters outside the Supreme Court compound in the capital, Naypyitaw, after Tuesday’s hearing. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not attend.
The reporters’ convictions were heavily criticized by press freedom advocates and Western diplomats, putting additional pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who took power in 2016 amid a transition from military rule.
Suu Kyi said in September, the week after their conviction, that the reporters’ case had nothing to do with press freedom as the men had been jailed for handling official secrets, not because they were journalists.
“Myanmar’s Supreme Court has the opportunity to correct the serious miscarriage of justice inflicted on Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for the last 15 months,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement.
“They are honest, admirable journalists who did not break the law, and they should be freed as a matter of urgency.”
Outlining their grounds of appeal, the reporters’ lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, cited lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set up by police.
After government law officer Ko Maung responded, Justice Soe Naing adjourned the case without giving a date for a ruling.
During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on Dec. 12, 2017. Almost immediately afterwards, they said, they were bundled into a car by plainclothes officers.
A police captain testified that, prior to the restaurant meeting, a senior officer had ordered subordinates to plant documents on Wa Lone to “trap” the reporter.
The prosecution said the reporters were caught holding secret documents at a routine traffic stop.
The high court in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon rejected an earlier appeal in January.
Before their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.
The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to United Nations estimates.


Houthi-held Sanaa ‘most dangerous’ for journalists with over 4200 violations

Updated 21 April 2019
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Houthi-held Sanaa ‘most dangerous’ for journalists with over 4200 violations

  • The report said Houthis killed 22 journalists since the start of the war
  • Houthis committed a total of 4288 violations against the media in Yemen

DUBAI: The Houthi-held capital has been labelled “the most dangerous for journalists and media” by a Yemeni media watch group on Saturday, with 4248 reported violations against the press.

The National Organization of Yemeni Media (SADA) issued a report on the “reality of the Yemeni press during the year of 2018,” which stated that the Houthi militia were responsible for 97 percent of all violations made against the media in Yemen last year that came to 4,364.

Outside of Sanaa, the Houthi militia committed 76 violations against the media, bringing the number to a total of 4288 cases.

Since the Houthi coup in 2014, the militia has been reported to have killed at least 22 journalists through sniping, using them as human shields, and kidnapped 141.

Other violations included “abduction, enforced disappearance, murder, physical assault, targeting of houses, occupation of media institutions, and security prosecution.”