Myanmar court postpones verdict for Reuters journalists

A Myanmar court postponed its ruling Monday on whether two Reuters journalists violated a state secrets law while reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims, delaying the decision for a week.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been detained in Myanmar’s infamous Insein prison since December in the case which has ignited a global outcry.

The two journalists had been investigating the September 2017 killings of 10 Rohingya Muslims in conflict-scarred Rakhine state.

They were invited to dinner with police in Yangon, handed some documents, and then arrested as they left the meeting, accused of possessing classified material on operations in the area.

They were charged with violating the colonial-era state secrets act which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and the expected ruling had drawn a crowd of diplomats, media and well-wishers to the court in northern Yangon.

But district judge Khin Maung Maung said in a brief hearing that the presiding judge was ill and that the verdict would be announced on September 3.

READ MORE: Myanmar police charge Reuters reporters under Official Secrets Act

Wa Lone told reporters as he left the courthouse that they were not afraid, whatever the decision.

“We have the truth with us and we did not do anything wrong,” he said.

Suu Kyi under fire

The case has sparked fears of eroding press freedoms under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose international reputation has been shattered over the treatment of the Rohingya.

Defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the delay could be tied to global developments on Myanmar.

A UN fact-finding mission on rights abuses in Myanmar is due to release a report on Monday and the UN Security Council will discuss the Rohingya crisis on Tuesday.

“If the verdict is today and it’s negative for the defence, it may be seen as a negative approach to democracy,” he said.

Reuters has robustly denied the charges. The defence said that the supposedly secret documents had already been published, and the prosecution case hit a hurdle when a police witness said his superior had ordered his men to entrap the pair.

The journalists said after their arrest that they were hooded and deprived of sleep in initial interrogations, which included questions about their work on Rakhine.

The newswire launched a worldwide advocacy campaign that included diplomats, celebrities and the legal assistance of prominent rights attorney Amal Clooney.

But it was not enough to keep the court in the Buddhist-majority country from pursuing the charges.

Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were probing the massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Rakhine state’s Inn Din village a week after the military launched a sweeping crackdown on members of the stateless Muslim minority.

The United Nations and Washington have called the campaign “ethnic cleansing”, after some 700 000 Rohingya fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, bringing with them testimonies of rape, arson and killings in the northern part of the state.

Myanmar rejects the charges but has admitted the killings investigated by Reuters took place and sentenced seven soldiers for the crime.

Rights groups say security forces should be investigated for crimes against humanity in Rakhine but so far only a handful of targeted sanctions have hit figures in Myanmar’s armed forces.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

External source

Related stories

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

UN Libya rights probe stalled due to cashflow problems

The UN is currently going through a serious liquidity crisis because many countries have not paid their annual dues, and it is therefore unable to fulfil all its mandates

The case for decriminalising personal drug use

Deputy Social Development Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu tells the UN that the war on drugs has failed and is suggesting other options to tackle addiction

Trump win will abort health care

Threats of funding cuts has caused a reduction in reproductive and sexual health services

The African Union’s (un)official statement on the US elections

The United States has never been shy to pass judgment on African elections. What does it look like when Africa passes judgment on America’s chaotic vote?

Women accuse aid workers of sexual abuse during the DRC’s Ebola crisis

More than 50 women have accused Ebola aid workers from the World Health Organisation...

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Trouble brewing for Kenya’s coffee growers

Kenyan farmers say theft of their crop is endemic – and they suspect collusion

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday