A Myanmar court on Monday found two Reuters journalists guilty of breaching the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act and sentenced them each to seven years in prison.
According to Reuters, Yangon northern district Judge Ye Lwin ruled that the defendants, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, broke the law by obtaining and collecting confidential documents.
“The defendants … have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years,” the judge said.
He added that their time served would be counted toward their sentences.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on December 12, 2017 as they were investigating the suspected, and later confirmed, massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys by soldiers of the Myanmar army in the Rakhine state village of Inn Din.
The two journalists were taken into custody after being invited by police officers to a meeting in a restaurant and receiving documents from them.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted even though the the information in the documents in question was already public and one of the police officers involved in their arrest testified that they had been deliberately set up.
International condemnation of their arrest and now their conviction has been widespread, many saying the prosecution of the journalists has greatly undermined media freedom in Myanmar.
“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement. “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.”
According to the Financial Times, one of the reporters has announced that both plan to appeal the conviction.
“What I want to say to the government is: you can put us in jail, but do not close the eyes and ears of the people,” Kyaw Soe Oo said.
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