NUJ condemns imprisonment of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar
3 September 2018
The National Union of Journalists has strongly condemned the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists found guilty of breaching the official secrets act in Myanmar.
The journalists, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were sentenced to seven years in prison under Mayanmar’s 1923 Official Secrets Act, which carries a punishment for anyone who “obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official … document or information” that may be “useful to an enemy”.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, described the imprisonment as “a full scale attack on human rights” and extended solidarity with the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), which faced a major battle in seeking to defend freedom of expression in the country. He said:
“Yet again repressive legislation has been used against journalists. This action is intended to instil fear and to inhibit journalists from investigating buses in a country where human rights are not respected.”
MJA said the verdict was disturbing for press freedom and the rule of law in Myanmar and also a threat and intimidation to all media.
The two Reuters journalists have been incarcerated in the notorious Insein Prison since their arrest in December 2017 after being set up by police with a promise of official leaked documents. This followed their extensive investigation into war crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine State, specifically the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingyan men and boys, with strong allegations that connected responsibility to the Myanmar army leadership.
The International Federation of Journalists said
“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were doing nothing more than what good reporters do – investigate abuses, killings and rape against civilians by the country’s powerful military. This is a failure of the courts and Myanmar’s government, with a justice system being manipulated to punish journalists and send a dire warning to other reporters that press freedom comes at a very, very heavy price.”
The NUJ will now be lobbying the UK and Irish governments to speak out about this outrage.