Thursday January 17, 2019
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UN offers help to journalists, whistle-blowers under threat

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United Nations: Journalists and whistle-blowers facing threats or retaliations for their work in the public interest can reach out to him for help, a top UN official dealing with freedom of expression says.

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, said that whenever journalists or whistle-blowers felt threatened, they can contact him directly or through non-governmental organisations. He would look into their complaints and, if these are genuine, his office would take up the cases with the governments, he said.

Speaking to reporters here Thursday, Kay said that the fact someone is watching them can put a brake on retaliations by governments.

Kay, who is with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, was a law professor at the University of California at Irvine.

He said the disclosures by whistle-blowers, who often are the sources for journalists, are important in safeguarding human rights and in fighting corruption.

He said the definition of journalists should be broadened to include bloggers, citizen journalists, non-governmental organisation (NGO) researchers, authors and academics as they are all now important sources for informing the public.

While conceding that some information may deserve special protection, he said that when their disclosure is in the public interest the punishment should not be disproportionate. It is important in the public interest to encourage whistle-blowers, he added.

But speaking at the General Assembly earlier, Kay said, “States may restrict access to information in specific areas and narrow circumstances, yet the disclosures of information relating to human rights or humanitarian law violations should never be the basis of penalties of any kind.”

Kay presented to the General Assembly a report focusing on whistle-blowers and sources of information that accused governments and international organisations of failing to adequately protect whistle-blowers.

“Countless sources and whistle-blowers around the world are intimidated by officials, co-workers, and others depriving everyone of information that may be critical to public debate and accountability,” he said.

(IANS)

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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)