Myanmar’s verdict today jailing two Reuters reporters for seven years on charges of breaching an official secrets act is a major step backward in the southeast Asian nation's transition to democracy, the agency’s Editor in Chief Stephen J Adler said.
“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Adler said in a statement.
“These two admirable reporters have already spent nearly nine months in prison on false charges designed to silence their reporting and intimidate the press.”
“Without any evidence of wrongdoing and in the face of compelling evidence of a police set-up, today’s ruling condemns them to the continued loss of their freedom and condones the misconduct of security forces.”
“This is a major step backward in Myanmar’s transition to democracy, cannot be squared with the rule of law or freedom of speech, and must be corrected by the Myanmar government as a matter of urgency,” Adler said.
“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,” he added.
Myanmar verdict was ‘deeply troubling’: US
The US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel said the verdict was “deeply troubling” for them.
“I’m sad for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and their families, but also for Myanmar,” Marciel said.
“It’s deeply troubling for everybody who has struggled so hard here for media freedom. I think one has to ask will this process increase or decrease the confidence the people of Myanmar have in their justice system.”
“The judge has appeared to have ignored evidence and to have ignored Myanmar law. This has dealt a hammer blow for the rule of law.”
Britain, EU demand freedom for two Reuters journalists
Britain and the European Union (EU) today called for the immediate release of two Reuters jailed in Myanmar, saying that the verdict undermined press freedom in Myanmar.
“As our Ambassador to Burma, who attended the hearing, has said, we are extremely disappointed with this verdict and sentencing,” British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said.
“And we call for the journalists to be released immediately. In any democracy, journalists must be free to carry out their jobs without fear or intimidation. This verdict has undermined freedom of the media in Myanmar.”
Dan Chugg, Britain’s envoy to Myanmar, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.
“Speaking on behalf of the British government, but also on behalf of European Union member states, we are extremely disappointed by this verdict,” he said.
“Freedom of expression and rule of law are fundamental in a democracy, and this case has passed a long shadow over both today.”
The EU also called for immediate and unconditional release of two Reuters journalists who were handed jail sentences in Myanmar for their reporting of the Rohingya crisis.
The EU’s foreign policy service said the sentence “undermines the freedom of the media, the public’s right to information and the development of the rule of law in Myanmar”.
“The prison sentences of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be reviewed and the two journalists be released immediately and unconditionally,” it said in a statement.
‘Harsh setback for media freedom’
The German government’s human rights commissioner today called the conviction of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar “a harsh setback” for freedom of the press in the southeast Asian country.
Baerbel Kofler, human rights commissioner for the German government, said she was crushed to hear the news and expressed concern that the conviction would intimidate other journalists.
“The two journalists ... did nothing but support the search for truth in Rakhine (state),” she added.