Jailed Reporter in Myanmar Challenges Prosecution’s Version of His Arrest

HONG KONG — A Reuters reporter jailed for months by Myanmar’s authorities has challenged the prosecution’s account of how he and a colleague have been arrested, the most recent twist in a carefully watched trial that highlights the federal government’s tense relationship with the information media.

The testimony on Monday by the journalist, U Wa Lone, got here greater than half a yr after he and a Reuters colleague have been arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s main metropolis, whereas investigating violence towards the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority, Reuters reported. It was the primary time the protection had an opportunity to current its case to the court docket.

The prosecution has stated the 2 reporters have been detained throughout a routine visitors cease, Reuters reported. However Mr. Wa Lone advised a Yangon court docket on Monday that the arrest occurred after he and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, met two cops in a Yangon restaurant.

Mr. Wa Lone stated that one of many officers, Naing Lin, had organized a gathering for a similar day, insisting that it was pressing as a result of he was about to be reassigned to a different area.

Within the restaurant, the officer handed the journalists rolled-up paperwork that had “nothing to do with our dialog,” Mr. Wa Lone advised the court docket on Monday, in keeping with Reuters. “He simply all of a sudden took them out. I didn’t ask him to.”

Mr. Wa Lone, 32, stated he and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been arrested upon leaving the restaurant — earlier than they may even have a look at the paperwork.

The authorities say the papers contained secret data and have charged the journalists, who’re each Myanmar natives, with violating the nation’s colonial-era Official Secrets and techniques Act. They withstand 14 years in jail if convicted.

The journalists have pleaded not responsible, and their authorized group says they have been entrapped by the police.

In Could, Mr. Naing Lin, a police lance corporal, testified that he had met the 2 journalists, however denied giving them something, initiating the assembly or touring to it with one other officer.

However a police captain, Moe Yan Naing, advised the court docket in April extra senior officer had ordered Mr. Naing Lin to plant paperwork on Mr. Wa Lone as a method of setting a entice for him.

“I’m revealing the reality, as a result of police of any rank should preserve their very own integrity,” Mr. Moe Yan Naing advised reporters after the April court docket listening to. “It’s true that they have been arrange.” He was later sentenced in secret to a yr in jail for an unspecified violation of the police disciplinary code.

Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo, the opposite jailed Reuters journalist, was anticipated to testify on Tuesday. A verdict is predicted in a couple of weeks.

Mr. Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo have been arrested in December whereas investigating the September bloodbath of 10 Rohingya Muslims within the village of Inn Din within the western state of Rakhine. The bloodbath was a part of a marketing campaign of violence by Myanmar’s military and Buddhist mobs that drove a whole bunch of 1000’s of Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh.

The violence has been extensively characterised as ethnic cleaning, prompting many world wide to marvel why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who turned the nation’s de facto chief in 2016, didn’t cease it.

“No nation and chief in fashionable instances has risen to the highest and plunged to the underside of world respect so rapidly,” The Bangkok Put up, a newspaper in neighboring Thailand, stated in an editorial on Monday. “In only a yr, Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar have gone from respect to disfavor in many of the world.”

The Myanmar authorities has denied recommendations that it dedicated genocide towards the Rohingya.

As for the Reuters reporters, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi advised the Japanese broadcaster NHK final month that that they had not been arrested in reference to their protection of what she referred to as “the Rakhine challenge.”

However reporters in Myanmar regard the trial as one other low level for a career that has lengthy been beneath siege within the nation.

Underneath a ruling navy junta, journalism in Myanmar was subjected for many years to oversight by a nationwide censorship workplace, identified euphemistically because the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division.

Some reporters have been optimistic when the Myanmar authorities stated in 2012 that it might now not censor non-public publications. The nation’s chief censor vowed on the time that there could be “no U-turn” on the coverage shift.

However optimism light as the federal government started arresting journalists from home media shops for studies that it deemed too delicate. And the arrest of the 2 Reuters journalists final yr has put the nation’s diminishing press freedom in a harsh worldwide highlight.

“This outrageous ruling affirms that politics slightly than the legislation or proof are what issues on this case,” Shawn Crispin, the senior Southeast Asia consultant for the Committee to Shield Journalists, an advocacy group primarily based in New York, stated in a press release final week, after the journalists have been formally charged.

“The one approach to reverse the injury is to launch Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo instantly,” he added.

U Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, stated he believed that the Dwelling Affairs Ministry was pursuing the case towards the Reuters reporters to intimidate different journalists who would possibly take into account pursuing delicate investigations.

The case was troubling proof, he added, that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s authorities, which remains to be dominated by the navy, has no extra respect for democratic norms than the navy junta as soon as did.

“Each the navy and the federal government have the identical eyes,” he stated.

Noticed Nang contributed reporting from Mandalay, Myanmar.

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