United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged the Myanmar government to pardon and release two imprisoned journalists, reported Reuters. “I hope that the government will be able to provide a pardon to release them as quickly as possible,” he said in Washington.
Earlier this month, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted for breaching the country’s Official Secrets Act, 1923, and sentenced to seven years in prison. In July, a court charged the two with breaching the colonial-era law, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Both journalists have been in jail since December. In April, the court refused to dismiss the case saying there was a “proper reason” for the charges against the journalists.
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”.
After their conviction, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed shock, calling upon the Myanmar government to release them immediately.
Last week, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the journalists were penalised for violating the Official Secrets Act and not for their journalistic work. She said the journalists can appeal the court’s verdict and challenged critics to point out the “miscarriage of justice”.
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.