YANGON, Myanmar – Two journalists who were jailed after reporting a massacre carried out by Myanmar’s military forces against the Rohingya minority filed on Tuesday their final appeal at the country’s supreme court against their seven-year prison sentence.
The defense attorneys representing Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who work for the global news agency Reuters, presented their arguments before the top court in the capital Naypyidaw.
The tribunal was set to soon decide on a date for issuing a definitive verdict, Than Zaw Aung, one of the lawyers representing the award-winning reporters, told EFE.
Both journalists were arrested in Dec. 2017 in Yangon (Myanmar’s largest city and former capital) while investigating the killing of 10 Rohingyas in the village of Inn Dinn, located in the western state of Rakhine.
In Sept. 2018, the two reporters were sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act, a law dating back to the British colonial period.
The reporters said they were entrapped in a set-up, a claim backed by the testimony of police captain Moe Yan Naing, who testified in April that a senior officer had ordered him and other subordinates to offer secret documents to Wa Lone as bait.
The Inn Dinn massacre being investigated by the journalists came during a brutal campaign by the military against the mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority in Aug. 2017 after a series of attacks by an insurgent group of the same ethnicity against around 30 security posts.
The investigation by Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo led to seven soldiers being sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 for the massacre, the only case of abuse acknowledged by Myanmar authorities.
The government and military have rejected the conclusions of a special United Nations commission, which said in a report released in September that the military campaign – which killed an undetermined number of Rohingyas and forced the exodus of more than 723,000 members of the community to Bangladesh – showed elements of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
The jailing of the journalists, who have pleaded not guilty, has put a question mark on judicial independence in Myanmar, a country that spent decades under a military dictatorship before starting to transition in 2011 towards what one of its powerful generals described as a “disciplined democracy.”
The current government, led by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – who obtained a landslide victory in the 2015 elections – has disillusioned many activists due to what they perceive is a lack of progress made on human rights issues.