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Myanmar court charges Reuters reporters

A court in Myanmar has charged two jailed Reuters journalists with obtaining secret state documents after six months of preliminary hearings.

Yangon district judge Ye Lwin charged reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, with breaching of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Both journalists pleaded not guilty to the charges, telling the judge they had “followed journalistic ethics”.

Outside the court, Wa Lone said he and Kyaw Soe Oo had committed no crime and would testify to their innocence in court.

“We will face the court,” he said. “We will not retreat, give up or be shaken by this.”

Reuters President and editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said the news organisation was “deeply disappointed” with the ruling and called the case against the reporters “baseless”.

“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,” he said.

“Today’s decision casts serious doubt on Myanmar’s commitment to press freedom and the rule of law.”

The prosecution in the case allege the journalists collected and obtained secret documents pertaining to the security forces with the intention to harm national security.

At the time of their arrest in December, the reporters had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

The reporters have told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before.

In April, Police Captain Moe Yan Naing testified that a senior officer had ordered his subordinates to plant secret documents on Wa Lone to “trap” the reporter.

After his court appearance, Moe Yan Naing was sentenced to a year in jail for violating police discipline by having spoken to Wa Lone, and his family was evicted from police housing.

Police have said the eviction and his sentencing were not related to his testimony.

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