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Reuters Journalists’ Appeal Gets Rejected by Myanmar Court

The judge said the defendants did not follow journalistic ethics and that the court could not determine whether the arrest of the reporters was a trap.

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Journalists appeal got rejected
Reuters journalists Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec. 11, 2017. (VOA)

A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act, saying the defense had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

“It was a suitable punishment,” said High Court Judge Aung Naing, referring to the seven-year prison term meted out by the lower court.

Ruling may be appealed

The defense has the option of making a further appeal to the country’s supreme court, based in the capital Naypyitaw.

“Today’s ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth,” said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler in a statement.

“Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt,” Adler wrote.

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Activists gather at a rally, calling for the release of imprisoned Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, one year after they were arrested, in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec.12, 2018. (VOA)

Appeal arguments

In their appeal arguments made last month, defense lawyers had cited evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime. They told the appeal court the lower court that tried the case had wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants.

The defense also said prosecutors had failed to prove the reporters gathered and collected secret information, sent information to an enemy of Myanmar or that they had an intention to harm national security.

The judge said the defendants did not follow journalistic ethics and that the court could not determine whether the arrest of the reporters was a trap.

Khine Khine Soe, a legal officer representing the government, told the appeal hearing that the evidence showed the reporters had collected and kept confidential documents. He said they intended to harm national security and the national interest.

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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.

The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to United Nations’ estimates. (VOA)

Next Story

World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

The high-level summit in New York next week will be the first to focus on the sustainable development goals since they were adopted

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FILE - The 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are seen behind then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the Annual Conference of Swiss Development Cooperation in Zurich, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2016. VOA

The world is decades behind schedule to achieve ambitious goals to fight poverty, inequality and other ills, development experts warned Wednesday, as global leaders prepared to meet to weigh their progress.

The high-level summit in New York next week will be the first to focus on the sustainable development goals since they were adopted by the United Nations four years ago.

The 17 sustainable development goals, known as SDGs, set out a wide-ranging “to-do” list tackling conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender inequality and climate change by 2030. Assessments of their progress have been bleak.

On Wednesday the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit, said the goals were unlikely to be reached until 2073, more than four decades past their target date.

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FILE – Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

“Progress isn’t fast enough to achieve the ambition of the SDGs within my lifetime, and that’s a problem,” said Michael Green, chief executive of the Imperative. “There are some countries that are going backwards and letting us down.”

Most countries are lagging particularly in efforts to improve sanitation, nutrition, basic medical care, shelter and water, said the group, which ranks nations on an array of economic and social factors.

“The U.N. General Assembly week in New York is really an opportunity for the world to step back and look at the progress in helping those most in need,” said Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft Corp and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Efforts to improve access to basic health care and end inequality are not doing well, he said.

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“If we don’t accelerate progress, the gaps will continue to get larger,” he said. “We are not on track to achieve these goals.”

‘Progress is faltering’

Placing blame on growing inequality and on climate change, Shantanu Mukherjee, policy chief at the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said: “The pace of progress is faltering.”

“Not only are business-as-usual efforts losing steam, … there are trends that threaten to undermine and even reverse the progress already being made on a massive scale,” he said at a recent release of a report on the goals by leading scientists.

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The world is decades behind schedule to achieve ambitious goals to fight poverty, inequality and other ills, development experts warned Wednesday. Pixabay

Their report said countries must address vast gaps in wealth distribution and improve access to economic opportunities and technological advances that undermine innovation and growth.

Progress has been made on the goal of ending extreme poverty, but in other areas, “progress has been slow or even reversed,” a U.N. assessment said this summer.

“The most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most and the global response has not been ambitious enough,” it said.

Global cost

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Holding a global summit every four years was mandated when the goals were first approved to assess progress, encourage broader implementation and boost public awareness.

The cost of implementing the global goals has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.

The goals will fail without new ways to ease national debts, boost wages and expand trade, top financial organizations including the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization said earlier this year.

Money needs to be freed up through international trading and financial systems, they said.

When the goals were first adopted in 2015, then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation.

“We need action from everyone, everywhere,” he said. (VOA)