Myanmar court rejects appeal of reporters - Whisper Eye

Myanmar court rejects appeal of reporters

A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act, saying the defense had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

“It was a suitable punishment,” said High Court Judge Aung Naing, referring to the seven-year prison term meted out by the lower court.

The defense has the option of making a further appeal to the country’s supreme court, based in the capital Naypyitaw.

“Today’s ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth,” said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler in a statement.

 “Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt.”

In their appeal arguments last month, defense lawyers had cited evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime. They asserted the lower court that tried the case had wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants.

The defense also said prosecutors had failed to prove the reporters gathered and collected secret information, sent information to an enemy of Myanmar or that they had an intention to harm national security.

Explaining his verdict, Judge Aung Naing said the reporters had behaved in a way that showed they intended to harm the country.

Britain called on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to look at whether due process was followed.

Asked about the case by BBC radio, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt urged the Nobel laureate to “recognize that, as someone who fought for democracy in Burma, she should be taking a personal interest in the future of these two brave journalists.”

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