Myanmar Court Refuses To Dismiss Charges Against The journalists
Myanmar court on Wednesday is refusing to dismiss a case against the two Reuters journalists after the reporters’ lawyers insisting last week that the evidence did not support the charges.
The case against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo has strongly criticising internationally as an effort through the authorities to intimidate the press, especially its coverage of the sensitive situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the military is accusing of massive human rights to abuses against the Muslim Rohingya minority.
The two journalists are arresting on December 12, with the police accusing them of violating the Official Secrets Act, a law dating from the British colonial times, by acquiring “important secret papers” handing to them by the two policemen who are working in the Rakhine. If convicting, they can get up to 14 years in the prison.
“I am not happy at all,” Kyaw Soe Oo tell reporters as he is walking out of the courtroom Wednesday.
Wa Lone is shouting out, “We journalists just did our job as we have the rights of a free press in the democracy and now we are facing the charge that can probably put us in prison for 14 years.”
The two has worked on Reuters’ coverage of the crisis in Rakhine, where the security forces’ response to a Muslim insurgents’ attack has driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh.
The case has drawn international attention, with a high-profile rights lawyer Amal Clooney who is joining the legal team representing the jailed journalists. The United States, Britain and Canada, as well as the United Nations, have called for the reporters to be freed.
The defense lawyers are asking the judge last week to dismiss the charges after four months of preliminary hearings, saying the testimony from a prosecution witness did not give enough evidence to prove the pair is violating the law.
“The judge says that eight more witnesses are still left to testify, and our claims of the baseless evidence from a persecution witness are not yet true,” Than Zaw Aung, one of the defense lawyers, says after Wednesday’s hearing.
The Reuters President and an Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said he is disappointed with the court’s decision.
“We believe that there is a solid ground for the court to dismiss this matter and to release our journalists,” Adler says in a statement. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reporting on the issues in Myanmar independently and impartially. They have not violated any laws in the course of their newsgathering and were simply doing their jobs. We will continue to do all are to secure their release.”
Than Zaw Aung says the next hearing is set for April 20th.
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