A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison for violating a state secrets act during their reporting of the Rohingya crisis, reports said.
Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the night of December 12, 2017, for breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act while investigating violence against the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state by the army, the BBC reported.
The defendants told the court that the two reporters obtained confidential documents from two police officers on December 12, 2017. Since then, both have been held without bail and have appeared 30 times before the court, which started a preliminary investigation on January 9 and formally filed charges on July 9.
The case has been widely seen as a test of press freedom in Myanmar.
The journalists have maintained their innocence, saying they were set up by the police. They have been in prison since their arrest in December 2017.
Condemning the arrest of the reporters, Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler on Monday said today is a sad day for Myanmar, journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and press freedom.
Judge Ye Lwin told the court in Yangon that the journalists had “intended to harm the interests of the state and so they have been found guilty under the state secrets act.”
Lone and Soe Oo had been collecting evidence about the execution of 10 men by the army in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine. During their investigation, they were offered the documents by two police officers but were arrested immediately afterwards for the possession of those documents.
Authorities later launched their own probe into the killings, confirming the massacre took place and promising to take action against those who had taken part.
The verdict comes a year after the crisis in Rakhine state came to a head when a Rohingya militant group attacked several police posts. The military responded with a brutal crackdown against the Rohingya minority.
The UN’s resident and humanitarian co-ordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby also condemned the incident. The UN has said leading army figures in Myanmar should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide.