Indonesian journalists protest Reuters reporters’ conviction

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Jakarta, Sep 7 (IANS) Indonesian journalists on Friday gathered outside the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta to protest the conviction of two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in prison for violating a state secrets law.

The protesters taped their mouths shut and wrists together, and laid down their cameras and recorders on a poster that read “Defend Press Freedom”, Efe news reported.

A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced journalists Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, to jail for breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

The pair were investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims at Inn Din village in northern Rakhine state as part of an offensive last year by the Myanmar Army after Rohingya rebels launched a series of attacks on security posts in the region.

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The offensive led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they now live in overcrowded refugee camps.

The two journalists were arrested in December after meeting police officers who the pair said handed them papers.

The journalists, whose report was published in February and led to the conviction of seven Myanmar soldiers to 10 years in prison, had claimed they were set up by Myanmar authorities.

One police witness testified the meeting was a set-up to entrap the reporters, the report said. “We know we did nothing wrong. I have no fear. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom,” Wa Lone said after the verdict.

Kyaw Soe Oo said: “What I want to say to the government is: You can put us in jail, but do not close the eyes and ears of the people.”

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The conviction of the reporters spurred an international outcry from rights groups, governments and news organizations.

“The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities. These sentences mark a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights under Aung San Suu Kyi’s government,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia Pacific Director Brad Adams said.

–IANS

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