Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday said the two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven years in prison were penalised for violating the Official Secrets Act and not for their journalistic work, AFP reported. A Myanmar court’s sentencing of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had led to criticism from several quarters.

Suu Kyi said the journalists can appeal the court’s verdict. She challenged critics to point out “miscarriage of justice”.

Suu Kyi made the statement at a World Economic Forum discussion on the Association of South East Asian Nations in Vietnam. “They were not jailed because they were journalists, but because the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act,” Suu Kyi said. “The case was held in open court... I do not think anybody has bothered to read the summary of the judge.”

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 claimed they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”. The reporters had denied the charges against them and claimed they were set up.

She defended the military’s action against “terrorists from the Muslim minority”. But, the de facto leader also made a rare reference to the criticism against Myanmar’s action against Rohingya Muslims. “There are of course ways [in] which, in hindsight, the situation could have been handled better,” Suu Kyi said.