Just a week after a United Nations Fact Finding Mission (FFM) recommended an investigation into crimes against humanity committed by top Myanmarese military personnel against the Rohingyas, a local court on Monday sentenced two journalists to a seven-year jail term. Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were accused by the state of obtaining classified official documents which exposed the role of the Myanmarese military and state authorities in the Rohingyas massacre.
Lone and Kyaw’s investigation found a series of documents pertaining to the massacre. Their joint report graphically notes an incident where 10 Rohingya Muslims, bound together, watched their Buddhist neighbors dig a shallow grave for them. Moments later, the captives were killed - two hacked to death by villagers and the others shot by the soldiers.
Denouncing the sentences, Stephen J Adler, the editor-in-chief of Reuters, in a statement, said, “It's a sad day for Myanmar and the press everywhere.” He noted that the news agency would take all steps, including seeking relief in an international forum, to ensure Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo get justice.
The duo was arrested in December 2017 after being summoned to meet police officers in Yangon. Wa Lone is 32 and Kyaw Soe is 28. Both of them have testified to having faced harsh treatment during their initial interrogations.
The journalists were subsequently detained for nine months without bail. Their family members were not allowed to meet them.
Human rights organizations and activities have called the charges and conviction politically motivated, and an attempt to silence voices speaking against the genocide. The court refused to drop the charges on the journalists even after a policeman testified that his commander had ordered that documents be planted on the journalists.
Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams also condemned the sentence, saying the outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists showed Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities. “These sentences mark a new low for press freedom and the further backsliding on rights under Aung San Suu Kyi’s government,” he noted.