After more than 200 days in detention and months of preliminary hearings, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are to face the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.
Arrested on 12 December after being lured into a trap by police and given supposedly classified documents, they are to be tried under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which the military uses whenever they want to prevent journalists from covering certain subjects.
“The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“As a result of the decision to proceed with this trial, despite the many inconsistencies and the undeniable evidence of the two journalists’ innocence that came to light in the preliminary hearings, the chances of seeing a free and independent press emerge in Myanmar have declined significantly.”
RSF regards the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as patently arbitrary and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
Myanmar fell six places in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Indexand is now ranked 137th out of 180 countries.