Myanmar’s top court poised to rule on appeal of jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone outside court in Yangon in August 2018. Photo: Reuters

YANGON, Apr 21, 2019, Reuters. Myanmar’s Supreme Court will rule on Tuesday on an appeal of two Reuters journalists imprisoned for breaking a colonial-era official secrets law – a case that has raised questions about the country’s transition to democracy, reported the South China Morning Post.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men during a military crackdown in the western part of the country.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in Myanmar, listed the journalists’ case on its website and Facebook page on Saturday.

Than Zaw Aung, a member of the legal team representing the journalists, confirmed the date, saying the team and family members of the men will be travelling to the capital Naypyidaw, about 370km north of Yangon, to attend.

“We have done our best in appealing to the Supreme Court. We are hoping for the best possible result. We hope the court will decide to release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” he said.
The government said the journalists were found with secret documents that could have harmed national security.

Outlining their grounds of appeal in March, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw cited lack of proof of a crime and evidence the pair were set up by police. A policeman told a lower court last year that officers planted the documents on the reporters.

A district court judge in Yangon found the two journalists guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September and sentenced them to seven years in prison. The Yangon High Court rejected an appeal in January.

The reporters’ imprisonment has sparked an outcry from press freedom advocates, Western diplomats and world leaders, adding to pressure on Myanmar’s unofficial leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate whose party took power in 2016 amid a transition to military rule.

The investigation the journalists were working on was completed by colleagues and published in 2018. Last week it was awarded the Pulitzer prize for international reporting.
The ruling also comes days after the journalists were overlooked when President Win Myint signed a pardon for 9,551 prisoners, including 16 foreigners, to be released nationwide to mark the country’s traditional new year.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Kyodo

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