Outside the court room on Friday, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s lawyer Than Zaw Aung said he would discuss with the two reporters and their families whether they would take their appeal further, including to the Supreme Court. The pair did not attend Friday’s hearing.
“They remain behind bars for one reason. Those in power sought to silence the truth. 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,” he said.
Following the ruling, Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife, Chit Su Win, told reporters that they were hopeful the pair would be released. “We were hoping to go to jail to welcome if they are released today but it’s not happening. We are very sad,” she said.
The killings they investigated were part of a campaign of rape, arson and murder which the military unleashed on the persecuted minority in August 2017, and which led to more than 720,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. A UN fact-finding mission has called for several top generals to face charges of genocide over the crackdown.
During the trial the military confirmed that the massacre had taken place, and state media reported that seven soldiers were jailed for the killings. Yet still, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison.
“It demonstrates the extent to which the military is still controlling significant portions of the judicial system,” Matt Smith, chief executive officer of advocacy group Fortify Rights, told CNN in December.
Throughout their many trial and hearing appearances, Wa Lone’s cheery smile and double thumbs became his trademark, despite being shackled and led everywhere by police. The two also continued to call for press freedom.
On November 20, the Yangon High Court allowed an appeal by the two journalists to go ahead. But their more than year-long incarceration has “sent a shiver through the national media, “said Yin Yadanar Thein, director of advocacy group Free Expression Myanmar.
“As a result there is an almost total media blackout on what is happening inside Rakhine state because journalists are too fearful to publish even the most basic information,” she added.
Suu Kyi has defended the reporters’ jailing, saying last year that they broke the law and their conviction had “nothing to do with freedom of expression at all.” She has also steadfastly defended the military’s actions in Rakhine, echoing assertions by the army that the crackdown was a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya militants.
Source : Nbcnewyork