Myanmar jails two journalists for 7 years over state secrets

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Detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo arrive to listen to their verdict at Insein court in Yangon, Myanmar on September 3, 2018. Reuters

YANGON (Reuters) – A Myanmar judge yesterday found two Reuters journalists guilty of breaching a law on state secrets and sentenced them to seven years in prison, in a landmark case seen as a test of progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian country.

Yangon northern district judge Ye Lwin said Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, breached the colonial-era Official Secrets Act when they collected and obtained confidential documents.

“The defendants…have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years.

The time already served by the defendants from December 12 will be taken into consideration,” the judge said.

The reporters had told the court two police officials handed them papers at a north Yangon restaurant moments before other officers arrested them on December 12.

They had denied the charges, insisting they were set up while doing their jobs to expose the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in a Rakhine village in September last year.

They have been held in Yangon’s Insein prison since their arrest in December.

The verdict was initially due last Monday, but was delayed due to the apparent illness of the presiding judge.

Yesterday’s ruling comes a week after the release of an explosive UN-led study into abuses in Rakhine, accusing Myanmar’s army chief of heading up a campaign of “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” against the Rohingya.

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