International desk- – Two Reuters journalists have been jailed for seven years by a Myanmar court for violating the country’s secrecy as they were investigating violence against the Rohingya minority.
Media reports said on Monday that Judge Ye Lwin told the court in Yangon the pair had “intended to harm the interests of the state”.
“And so they have been found guilty under the state secrets act,” he said.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both of Myanmar nationals, were arrested while carrying official documents which had just been given to them by police officers.
Lone and Oo, who worked as reporters for the Reuters wire service, were investigating the massacres carried out by the Myanmar army in 2017.
More than 700,000 people crossed the border into Bangladesh after the military launched the crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world.
Many men were killed and women raped and tortured by the soldiers during the clampdown, which the United Nations termed as ethnic cleansing.
The jailed reporters have maintained their innocence, saying they were set up by police.
The case has been widely seen as a test of press freedom in Myanmar.
“I have no fear,” Wa Lone, one of the two journalists, said after the verdict. “I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom,” the reporter was quoted to have said by BBC.
The two men, who both have families with young children, have been in prison since their arrest in December 2017.
“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and press freedom anywhere,” Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, 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 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, added BBC.