Myanmar Court Charges Two Reuters Journalists Under Colonial-Era Secrecy Law

Yesterday, after seven months in jail, two Reuters journalists were officially charged with violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, a 1923 law with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.


Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been arrested in December of last year while working on an investigation into the September massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys. They were accused of obtaining and handling confidential government documents linked to national security.

Both journalists pleaded “not guilty.”

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler released a statement yesterday calling the charges “baseless” and questioning Myanmar’s “commitment to press freedom and the rule of law”:

We are deeply disappointed that the court declined to end this protracted and baseless proceeding against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. These Reuters journalists were doing their jobs in an independent and impartial way, and there are no facts or evidence to suggest that they’ve done anything wrong or broken any law. They should be released and reunited with their families, friends, and colleagues. Today’s decision casts serious doubt on Myanmar’s commitment to press freedom and the rule of law.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley released a statement of her own, in which she put pressure on the Burmese government to drop the charges:


A free press is fundamental to democracy. Journalists not only keep citizens informed but they hold leaders accountable. They should never be unjustly targeted, threatened, or persecuted for simply doing their jobs. We call on the Burmese government to allow these journalists to return to their families and continue their work.

Haley’s press release also noted that Police Captain Moe Yan Naing had testified regarding the two journalists’ innocence; he testified in April that a superior had ordered subordinates to frame Wa Lone. Moe Yan Naing was later sentenced to a year in jail.

According to Reuters, Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not respond to requests for comment.

The case will resume on July 16.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.


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