A global outcry over the jailing of two Reuters journalists has been met with silence from Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a stony response that an official defended yesterday as a reluctance to criticise the judiciary.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested while reporting on atrocities committed during the bloody expulsion by the military of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims last year.
A Yangon court on Monday found them guilty under the Official Secrets Act and handed them each seven years in prison, sparking outrage from the UN, EU and US as well as media and rights groups.
But Aung Hla Tun, a former Reuters journalist who now works for the government as deputy Minister of Information, defended the Nobel Laureate's reticence.
"Criticising the judicial system would be tantamount to contempt of court," he told AFP. "I don't think she will do it."
Meanwhile, several Myanmar news outlets and dozens of civil society groups denounced the jailing of two reporters, and said their conviction was an assault on the right to freedom of information.
The privately owned 7 Day Daily, one of Myanmar's most widely read newspapers, printed a black block on its front page yesterday with an editorial headlined "A sad day for Myanmar".
An editor of the Irrawaddy online news magazine, Kyaw Zwa Moe, said Suu Kyi and President Win Myint had to understand the case was about the people's right to know.