A court in Myanmar on Monday charged two jailed journalists with obtaining secret state documents, Reuters reported. The preliminary hearings are over and the case will now move into the trial phase.
Yangon district judge Ye Lwin charged Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with breaching of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, 1923, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The case has been adjourned till July 16.
The judge said the court had filed charges against the journalists under Section 3.1 (c) of the Act to investigate the prosecution’s allegations that they collected and obtained secret documents pertaining to the security forces with the intention to harm national security. The defence lawyers asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the prosecution had failed to provide evidence to support the charges. They said the journalists were arrested in a police sting operation that was aimed at interfering with their reporting.
The court, in April, refused to dismiss the case, saying there was a “proper reason” for the charges against the journalists.
Wa Lone on Monday said he and Kyaw Soe Oo had committed no crime and would testify to their innocence in court. “We will face the court,” he said. “We will not retreat, give up or be shaken by this.”
The journalists had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state’s Inn Din village during an army crackdown in 2017. The two were arrested after they were invited to meet police officers for dinner in the north of Yangon. The Ministry of Information said they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.
On April 10, the Myanmar Army sentenced seven soldiers to “10 years in prison with hard labour in a remote area” for being involved in the killing.
The case has drawn widespread international attention, with the United States, Britain and Canada, as well as the United Nations calling for the reporters to be freed.