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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.

Rally, Myanmar,reporters
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

Google Announces to Train Indian Journalists For Fair Election Coverage

For 2019, Google plans to train another 10,000 journalists in India under this programme

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The Google logo is seen at a start-up campus in Paris, France, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

As India elections inch closer, Google on Thursday announced to train journalists in online verification and fact-checking, digital safety and security, YouTube for elections coverage and data visualization for elections.

Google News Initiative, in partnership with independent, third-party organisations DataLeads and Internews would host training sessions in 30 cities between February 26 and April 6 in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Bangla, Kannada, Gujarati, Odia, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi, the company said in a statement.

“The Google News Initiative is proud to be supporting journalists in India as they prepare to cover the upcoming elections. Since 2016, Google has trained more than 13,000 journalists in India, across over 200 newsrooms and in 40 cities,” said Irene Jay Liu, Google News Lab Lead, Asia-Pacific.

Working journalists and freelancers covering elections can apply for the free training workshops.

Google, Main One, russia
A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company’s offices in Toronto. VOA

Google would organise the training session in the Delhi-NCR region on February 26.

Google launched the “Google News Initiative India Training Network” last year, focused on online verification and fact-checking.

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In six months, the Network onboarded 241 trainers in seven languages, who have so far trained 5,260 journalists across over 40 cities in India.

For 2019, Google plans to train another 10,000 journalists in India under this programme. (IANS)