Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Myanmar court charges Reuters reporters under Official…

Myanmar court charges Reuters reporters under Official…

Prosecutors and defence lawyers deliver final arguments in the pre-trial phase of the case.

The case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went through several months of hearings to determine if there was enough evidence to support the charge, which the reporters denied. The men pleaded not guilty to breaking the Official Secrets Act - a law rarely prosecuted since its institution in 1923, back when Myanmar was still known as Burma under British colonial rule.

The United States embassy in Yangon said it was "deeply disappointed" by the court's decision.

The European Union, which has sent observers to the Reuters trial in Yangon, renewed calls for the charges against the journalists to be dropped, while the International Commission of Jurists said the prosecution has failed to provided credible evidence of wrongdoing. "If the police perpetrated injustice, we have to investigated and write". If the police and the Tatmadaw (military) broke the law, journalists must undertake investigations.

The two Reuters journalists had been investigating allegations of one such atrocity, the September 2 massacre of 10 Rohingya men, when they were arrested late past year.

Defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said Monday that the defense team would "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst". Prosecutors say the journalists illegally obtained confidential government documents in the course of their reporting.

"This is a black day for press freedom in Myanmar", said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International's director of crisis response. Fellow journalist Kyaw Soe Oo follows behind him, also in handcuffs.

"They should be released and reunited with their families, friends, and colleagues".

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo is escorted by police while leaving Insein court in Yangon, Myanmar July 9, 2018. He believed that all journalists and professionals in the media would be anxious about the court's decision. The prosecution maintains that the pair were detained during a routine patrol, but the reporters have told their family that they were invited to dinner by members of the police force, where they were handed the documents before being arrested.

This development sets off alarms about press freedom and freedom of expression in Myanmar, said U Aung Myat Khaing of free speech group Article 19.

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"A free press is fundamental to democracy", she said in a statement. "The court's decision to proceed with this farcical, politically motivated case has deeply troubling and far-reaching implications for independent journalism in the country".

"Charging them under this draconian law - even after widespread national and worldwide condemnation - is a clear sign that the authorities are intent on silencing critical voices".

Yanghee Lee, the United Nation's human rights envoy on Myanmar said in a Twitter post.

"We have the right to a defence".

The pair has been in pretrial detention since their arrests on December 12.

"Naturally, I'm not satisfied.not happy", he told reporters when asked about the court's decision.

"When the facts of the case and the testimony in open court strongly indicate that there is no case to answer and that there are political factors at play, questions arise about the judiciary".

The reporters appear in court and are remanded in custody.

The minister will "go soon" to Myanmar to see the progress of the repatriation process including housing facilities, movement as well as livelihood, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said on Tuesday. "Today's decision casts serious doubt on Myanmar's commitment to press freedom and the rule of law", the statement read.

The Danish embassy stated that it is "extremely disappointing" for an NLD-led government, "on the basis of ancient legislation created by the British colonial government in 1923, to criminalise the sharing of nearly any kind of information held by the government. It is not getting worse, because press freedom has never improved since the military government", he said.

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