Burmese journalists lose appeal against seven-year sentence

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo arrive at court last August

Reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested in Yangon in December 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in jail for violating the state secrets act, a charge supporters say is trumped up.

"Everything about this case, both the substance and its conduct, called for their convictions to be overturned, but Myanmar's justice system has shown its determination until the very end to punish Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo", RSF Asia-Pacific desk head Daniel Bastard said.

At the time of their arrest, they had been working on a story about a massacre of ten Rohingya Muslim men and boys in Rakhine state, allegedly by government forces and Buddhist civilians, during an anti-Rohingya crackdown by the government that sent almost 700,000 Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh amid mass rapes and killings and the razing of hundreds of villages. "Myanmar authorities must release the two journalists immediately and unconditionally", she said.

Judge Aung Naing of the Yangon High Court said in his ruling that lawyers for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo failed to submit enough evidence to prove they were innocent.

The reporters can appeal to Myanmar's Supreme Court which could take up to six months.

Kyaw Soe Oo's wife, Chit Su, said the ruling came as a surprise. "We can not stand by and accept this antidemocratic decision.Journalists must have the freedom to report the facts and to defend, expose and advance the truth without fear of retaliation, violence, imprisonment or being killed".

The defense lawyer has claimed, "The arrest at the traffic stop is a lie".

The reporters have contended they were framed by police because of official displeasure over their reporting on the brutal crackdown by security forces on minority Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

In a recent report, Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience, the OIDA raised the estimated number of murdered Rohingya to 23,962 (± 881) from a Doctors Without Borders figure of 9,400.

United Nations investigators have called for top Myanmar generals to be investigated for genocide, and criticised the country's de facto leader Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to stop the attacks.

"We are very anxious about due process in this case", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC radio when asked about the case.

"We thought that they would be free today", she said.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay was not available for comment.

European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt, who also was at court, described the ruling as "a great disappointment and a missed opportunity to correct a wrong that has been committed against the two journalists". "We are very anxious about due process in this case", Mr Hunt told BBC radio.

Before their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar's Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.