Despite a recent damning report from the United Nations calling the killings of the Rohingyas to be a genocide conducted by the Myanmar military which increased pressure on the country’s government, a court of the country sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to prison for seven year for illegal possession of official documents.
The two journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, had been investigating the mass killing of Rohingya men and had severely opposed the allegations brought against them under the Official Secrets Act which carries a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison.
“I have no fear,” Wa Lone said after the verdict. “I have not done anything wrong … I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.”
Delivering the ruling the judge said that “the defendants … have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c….”The time already served by the defendants from December 12 will be taken into consideration,” Ye Lwin said.
There has bene global attention to the case as it has bene cited as a example where the freedom of press and free speech has been brutally muzzled in a country whose government is led by Nobel Pease laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Hopes among the people Myanmar and indeed the rest of the world that the country would soon move to complete democracy following the coming to power of Suu Kyi in 2016 has been dashed so far.
“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Reuters editor in chief Stephen J Adler said in a statement.
“We will not wait while Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo suffer this injustice and will evaluate how to proceed in the coming days, including whether to seek relief in an international forum.”
Both the journalists have alleged that they had been subjected to harsh treatment while they were investigated and interrogated initially. The investigative report that the two journalists were working was related to a brutal attack by the Myanmar security forces on the Rohingyas in western Rakhine state.
The US report released last week has noted that more than 700,000 Rohingya had been forced to migrate into the neighbouring country of Bangladesh to avoid the military atrocities. The military action on the minority Muslim community was because of attacks by Rohingya fighters where a number of security personnel were killed.
The report also demanded that top Myanmar military officials, some of whom were named in the report, should be held responsible for the genocide and investigated and tried in a court. This is the most serious indictment of the Myanmar’s government despite the rejection of allegations of genocide.
And the top military officials 19 other individuals and organizations were named in the report had been banned from social media site Facebook to stop spreading of hate and misinformation with respect to the Rohingya issue.
(Adapted from Aljazeera.com)