Jailed for the Truth

September 21, 2018
SENTENCED Wa Lone (center) leaves court in Myanmar. He is one of two journalists sent to prison this month for reporting on violence against the Rohingya people.
YE AUNG THU—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A court in Myanmar has sentenced two journalists from the Reuters news agency to seven years in prison. Earlier this month, the judge ruled that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo illegally got hold of secret government documents. The journalists pleaded not guilty. Many people around the world believe the men were wrongly convicted.

Press freedom groups say Myanmar’s government is trying to hide the truth. The journalists were arrested while reporting on military attacks against Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The Rohingya are an ethnic minority. Some 700,000 of them fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape recent violence. The United Nations has called for officers of Myanmar’s military to be charged with genocide.

Wa Lone called the ruling “unfair.” Myanmar’s government is “threatening our democracy and destroying freedom of the press in our country,” he told the crowd outside the court.

The two are not the first journalists to find themselves in trouble in Myanmar. In the past few years, more than 30 journalists there have been charged with crimes for their work. Myanmar says reports of violence against Rohingya are “fake news.”

Nikki Haley is U.S. ambassador to the U.N. In a statement, she called the convictions “another terrible stain” on Myanmar’s government. She added: “In a free country, it is the duty of a responsible press to keep people informed and hold leaders accountable.”

Stop & Think! What effects might the jailing of these reporters have on other members of the press in the United States and around the world?