Yangon’s north district court sentences two Reuters journalists to 7 years’ imprisonment

Writer: 
Kyi Naing
Ko Wa Lone, a Reuters journalist, who gets seven years’ imprisonment, replied queries by the journalists before getting on the police car. (Photo-Kyi Naing)
 
The north district court in Yangon Region sentenced two Reuters journalists—Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years in prison for breaching Official Secrets Act. 
 
“The court said Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo breached the Section 3 (1) (C) of the Official Secrets Act. The jury found them guilty. For that reason, the court gave a verdict of guilty and sentenced them to seven years’ imprisonment. We will do everything we can. We will make an appeal to the court, too,” said advocate Khin Maung Zaw to the two Reuters journalists.
 
The documents of the evidences of telephone, Facebook and Messenger were used as secret proofs in deciding the case of the two Reuters journalists. These included in the final verdict. The documents covered roadmaps for the visits of Pope and the vice-president.
 
“We refuted an argument in every trial. The document of the roadmap of Pope’s trip is not the one produced from any organization of Myanmar. It is posted from the German website. Another document is about the vice-president. The court mentioned it was not stated on the newspaper. But these facts are available on Facebook, Messenger and social networks at any time. The court regarded these easy facts as official secrets and gave a verdict of guilty. Therefore, the two Reuters journalists get seven years’ imprisonment,” said advocate Than Zaw Aung to the two Reuters journalists.
 
Advocate Than Zaw Aung added that the verdict is very disappointing, suggesting democracy, press freedom and rule of law are going in a terrible state and it is a loss for all. We go on trying for enabling the two Reuters journalists to be released unconditionally.  
 
This verdict is very disappointing for me. Our country is going to a road to democracy. This is a proof of showing terrible conditions in the aspects of democracy, press freedom and rule of law, said advocate Than Zaw Aung.
 
Ye Lwin, deputy district judge-6 of north district court of Yangon Region, gave the two Reuters journalists a verdict of guilty. There are three lawyers including Kyaw Min Aung from government side. 
 
The families of the two Reuters journalists, the diplomats including US ambassador Scot Marciel, observers and officials of CSOs came to hear the trial that gave final verdict. 
 
“We are arrested for holding Pope’s document. We are arrested for knowing Ko Nyo Tun’s phone number. We are arrested for the visit of the vice-president seen on Facebook. Is that fair? It is undermining democracy of our country and press freedom. We will brave this unpleasant situation,” said Wa Lone.
 
“We didn’t do anything about crime. We are not spies. We must fight for press freedom. We demand that the government should not shut down the ears and eyes of the people,” said Kyaw Soe Oo.
 
After the verdict, a small crowd of supporters momentarily blocked policemen from pushing the reporters into a vehicle to take them back to jail. 
Two Reuters journalists—Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Mingalardon Township for possessing secret documents  on December 12 in 2017. The pair was detained for breaching the Section 3 (1) (C) of Official Secrets Act of 1923. The police Lt-Colonel acting as the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the two Reuters journalists at the north district court.
 
The pair was detained on December 12 in 2017. They have been in custody for nine months and faced nearly 40 trials. 
 
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were those who presented investigation reporting on the killing of 10 Bengalis n Indin village, Maungdaw. In connection with the case, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services issued a statement on April 10, saying that seven soldiers were jailed with hard labour. Actions were also taken against police and civilians who committed offences in line with rules and regulations. 
Former police captain Moe Yan Naing, who has seen the two Reuters journalists, was sent to the prison for one year in accord with policing rules. Former police cobra Khin Maung Lin was dismissed by Myanmar Police Force. 
 
Translated and Edited by Win Htut