Reuters today issued the following statements regarding jailed reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo after lawyers delivered final arguments to a Myanmar court in the pre-trial phase of the case. The court in Yangon will rule next week on whether to charge the two reporters under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.
Stephen J. Adler, President and Editor-in-Chief, Reuters, said:
“At this critical juncture, we hope that the court will decline to charge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and order their prompt release. Freedom of the press is essential in any democracy, and to charge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under these circumstances, without any proof of their having done anything unlawful, would seriously undermine Myanmar’s constitutional guarantee of free speech. We remain optimistic that the court will thoroughly consider the evidence before it and bring this proceeding to a close as quickly as possible.”
Gail Gove, Chief Counsel, Reuters, said:
“The Myanmar court now has an opportunity to correct the misdeeds of local police who, more than six months ago, entrapped Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and falsified their arrest. In light of Myanmar’s commitment to the rule of law and fair trial rights, we look forward to the court’s ruling on our request that it decline to charge them and dismiss this case.”
Summary of defence arguments:
The petition for dismissal explains that there is no basis to charge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under the Official Secrets Act. To charge them, the court would have to find evidence that the reporters collected secret government papers to aid an enemy of and harm Myanmar. None of these necessary evidentiary showings are present here. The papers are not secret, the prosecutor has not identified an “enemy” or provided any proof that the journalists were collaborating with an enemy, and at all times they were acting as journalists, not adversaries of their country.
Most critically, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not “collect” the allegedly secret papers, as required under the Official Secrets Act. Instead, as explained by a police officer and corroborated by other witnesses, a police officer planted the papers on Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo just moments before their arrest, which was pre-planned and orchestrated by local police in response to their reporting about activities of security forces in the Rakhine State. Under these facts, the prosecutor has not upheld its burden to show there is a basis for charges, and this matter should be dismissed.
Read the full defense arguments here: tmsnrt.rs/2NfcCkR
Mansi dot Walia at thomsonreuters dot com
[Reuters PR Blog Post]