Myanmar’s Supreme court rejected Tuesday the final appeal of two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in jail for reporting on a massacre of Rohingya men and boys by Buddhist villagers back in December 2017.
“They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected,” Supreme Court Justice Soe Naing told the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, without further explanation. The two young Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both Myanmar citizens, were arrested in 2017 after revealing killings of the Muslim minority Rohingya, which has been dubbed as an “ethnic cleansing” operation in Myanmar. They found a mass grave filled with bones sticking out of the ground and went on to gather testimony from perpetrators, witnesses, and families of victims. While investigating, they obtained three exposing photographs from villagers: two showing 10 Rohingya men and boys bound and kneeling and a third showing the mutilated and bullet-ridden bodies of the same 10 individuals in the same shallow grave they had found before. On September 2018, they were charged by a district court judge in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon for violating the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Since then they have lost two appeals, one to the Yangon High Court which rejected an earlier appeal in January.
“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Reuters Chief Counsel Gail Gove said in a statement on Tuesday. The defense lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said families of the two men plan to submit a letter to Myanmar President Win Myint’s office seeking a pardon. Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations in Myanmar, Knut Ostby, said the international body will “continue to call for full respect of freedom of the press and human rights.” For their investigative journalistic work, on April 15, 2019, both journalists were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting.