Britain calls for immediate release of Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar

Britain calls for immediate release of Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar

A judge on Monday sentenced journalists Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years in prison for possessing "secret" government documents, sparking global outrage and angry scenes outside the court in Yangon.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era law, Reuters reported.

The government maintains they were detained for breaking the official secrets act. "The time already served by the defendants from December 12 will be taken into consideration".

The pair had been gathering evidence about the execution of 10 men in the village of Inn Din in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar. and the press everywhere", Stephen J. Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement, denouncing the charges as "false" and "designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press".

Myanmar's government, Krolicki said, still has an opportunity to "do the right thing" and free the journalists.

"The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar, and the reporters' conviction is a major setback to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms", the embassy added.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the sentencing of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, saying it marked a "new low for Myanmar". USA officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations, have called for the release of the pair and for all charges against them to be dropped.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo both testified they suffered from harsh treatment during their initial interrogations.

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Theresa May has called for the immediate release of two Reuters journalists jailed for carrying police documents, saying the verdict undermines press freedom.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo - who both have young daughters and have not seen their families outside of prison visits and court hearings for almost nine months - were then taken back to prison. "I believe in justice, democracy and freedom", he said.

The deaths happened during a widespread campaign of violence which started last August and saw more than 700,000 Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

British ambassador Dan Chugg told reporters outside the court, "the verdict today has struck a hammer-blow to the rule of law in Myanmar".

Reuters president and editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement: "These two admirable reporters have already spent almost nine months in prison on false charges created to silence their reporting and intimidate the press". The piece reports that Myanmar troops and Buddhist villagers killed 10 Rohingya men in a remote village in September 2017 and buried them in a single grave.

The reporters had told the court two police officials handed them papers at a restaurant in the city of Yangon moments before other officers arrested them.

As calls for Myanmar's military leaders to face an global tribunal mount, they have remained defiant, insisting last year's crackdown was a proportionate response to attacks by Rohingya militants.

The military crackdown followed attacks on police posts by Rohingya insurgents.

Investigators working for the U.N.'s top human rights body said last week that genocide charges should be brought against senior Myanmar military officers over the crackdown.

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