The Los Press Club joins with Reuters and myriad other news organizations in condemning the September 3, 2018 unconscionable sentencing of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Both men were sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of illegal possession of official documents.
These two reporters have been held by Myanmar police since December 12, 2017 for allegedly “obtaining state secrets” related to a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the country’s Rakhine state. They had been invited to have dinner with two police officers who handed them the secret documents ostensibly as whistleblowers. After this clear case of entrapment, the reporters were summarily arrested.
Rights groups and the Myanmar media have accused the country’s civilian government for backpedaling on press freedom. The two journalists pleaded not guilty, arguing that they had been framed by police.
The Myanmar government has banned the media from providing independent coverage of the northern Rakhine state, where soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities against the Rohingya during the crackdown. On Feb. 7, Reuters published a special report with the two journalists’ bylines about events leading to the execution of 10 Rohingya men by Myanmar troops and Buddhist villagers in Rakhine’s Inn Din village. The report stated that soldiers and Buddhists neighbors shot or hacked the men to death burying their bodies in a mass grave.
Stephen J. Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters, expressed extreme disappointment over the guilty verdict, calling it a “sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” he said, noting a lack of any evidence of wrongdoing and- to the contrary- compelling evidence of a police set-up.
Reuters “will not wait while Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo suffer this injustice and will evaluate how to proceed in the coming days,” Adler concluded.
The LAPC stands for the unfettered ability of all news media to report the facts and to tell the truth. Democracy cannot exist without a free press.