Top Myanmar court turns down Reuters journalists’ appeal

Yangon: Myanmars Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven years in jail last year for their reporting on the killings of 10 Rohingya villagers.

Reporters Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were found guilty in September 2018 of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act over their reporting of an alleged massacre in the village of Inn Dinn in Rakhine state.

They have been behind bars since their arrest in December 2017 under the Official Secrets Act. The initial conviction in September was upheld by the Yangon High Court in January.

Judicial sources and Wa Lone’s wife confirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling to Efe news, which was the pair’s last chance to have their sentence overturned.

On Tuesday, the reporters were not at the Supreme Court in the capital Naypyidaw to hear the ruling that once again went against them.

“Our appeal was rejected,” Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

“They upheld the ruling of the lower court.” Supporters believe thee pair have been punished for investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in September 2017.

They had already lost a prior appeal at a lower court in Yangon in January.

The reporters said they were entrapped, a claim backed by the testimony of police captain Moe Yan Naing, who testified earlier this month that a senior officer had ordered him and other subordinates to offer secret documents to Wa Lone as bait.

The Inn Dinn massacre being investigated by the journalists came during a brutal campaign by the military against the mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority in August 2017 after a series of attacks by an insurgent group of the same ethnicity against around 30 security posts.

The investigation by the two journalists led to seven soldiers being sentenced to 10 years in prison, the only case of abuse acknowledged by Myanmar authorities.

The story earned the team a Pulitzer Prize, one of the top honours in journalism.

The government and military have rejected the conclusions of a special UN commission, which said in a report released in September that the military campaign – which killed an undetermined number of Rohingya and forced the exodus of more than 740,000 members of the community to Bangladesh – showed elements of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The jailing of the journalists, who have denied the charges, has put a question mark over judicial independence in Myanmar, a country that spent decades under a military dictatorship before starting to transition in 2011 towards what one of its powerful generals described as a “disciplined democracy”.

With agencies inputs