The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the decision of the Myanmar Supreme Court to uphold the seven-year imprisonment of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. This ruling effectively puts the final nail in the coffin of their quest for justice.
SEAPA cannot say strongly enough that journalism is not a crime. What is a crime is the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers by seven Myanmar soldiers, a brutal atrocity that the two journalists reported about.
With the conviction of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, it was evident that the Myanmar government, using its flawed judicial system, was sending a signal that journalists who expose its wrongdoings, including the atrocities suffered by the soldiers’ victims, will face dire and even unimaginable consequences. The attempt to cover up this state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya people is plain to see.
The Supreme Court’s decision, and all other government actions that preceded it, speaks volumes about the state of fundamental freedoms in Myanmar. The promise of democracy that was ushered in by the landmark elections in 2015 is now a meaningless memorial that is quickly falling apart.
It is never too late for the civilian government of Myanmar to revisit and fulfill its promised reform. Setting Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe free is a crucial and urgent step in this direction.