GENEVA (12 April 2018) – A Myanmar court’s decision to continue pursuing a case against two Reuters reporters gives rise to grave concern for investigative journalism and the public’s right to information in the country, UN experts* have said.
“We urge the prosecution to drop the charges against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and we urge the Government to release both journalists immediately,” the experts said.
On 11 April 2018, a court in Yangon rejected a motion to dismiss the case against the two reporters. It scheduled a hearing for 20 April 2018 to hear additional prosecution witnesses.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reporting on the widespread assault on the Rohingya population in Rakhine State when authorities arrested them on 12 December 2017. The authorities accuse the journalists of illegally acquiring information with the intention of sharing it with foreign media. On 21 December 2017, UN experts raised concern that the charges brought against the reporters under the 1923 Official Secrets Act are tantamount to the criminalisation of journalism in Myanmar.
On 10 April 2018, seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in a remote area for participating in a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in a village in Rakhine State.
“The perpetrators of a massacre that was, in part, the subject of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s reporting have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. And yet these two reporters face a possible 14 years imprisonment. The absurdity of this trial and the wrongfulness of their detention and prosecution are clear,” the experts said.
“We urge the Government to ensure not only the protection and release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. We also urge the Government to ensure that investigative journalism, especially journalism relating to human rights violations and the situation in Rakhine State, is duly protected in Myanmar.”
The Special Rapporteurs are in contact with the Myanmar authorities concerning the case.
*The UN experts: David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.