A judge in Myanmar, on Monday, found two Reuters journalists guilty of unlawfully possessing state secrets, sentencing them to seven years in prison, in a decision that is widely considered to be retribution by the government for the pair’s reporting on the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys by state security forces. The case has heaped additional international pressure on the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has already faced withering criticism for its treatment of the Muslim minority Rohingya that many international observers have deemed ethnic cleansing. The U.N, after conducting a fact-finding mission, said last week that Myanmar’s military was guilty of carrying out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent.” As a result, according to the U.N., some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled into neighboring Bangladesh.
The Reuters reporters, 32-year-old Wa Lone and 28-year-old Kyaw Soe Oo, pleaded not guilty to the charges that were fishy from the start. “The reporters had told the court two police officials handed them papers at a restaurant in the city of Yangon moments before other officers arrested them,” Reuters reports. “One police witness testified the restaurant meeting was a set-up to entrap the journalists to block or punish them for their reporting of a mass killing of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.” The court then determined the documents to be “confidential” and could be used to aid “enemies of the state and terrorist organizations,” which Judge Ye Lwin ruled was a breach of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.
“We know we did nothing wrong. I have no fear. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom,” Wa Lone said after the verdict was delivered.