MANDALAY — Yangon’s northern district court on Wednesday rejected a request to dismiss the charges against two Reuters reporters accused of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.
Lawyers for the two reporters — Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo — submitted the request in late March, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges.
“The court gave no concrete reason but said it will proceed with the lawsuit and hear from the plaintiff’s witnesses, so it rejected our proposal. We were all saddened by the decision of the court,” said U Than Zaw Aung, one of the lawyers representing the reporters.
“Because there was not sufficient evidence to support the charges and because the army has already taken action against the soldiers involved in the massacre at Inn Din, the court’s decision shows that the accuser and the court want to put the reporters behind bars,” he added.
The reporters’ lawyers said they planned to appeal the decision.
The next hearing is scheduled for April 20, at which the court will hear from the plaintiff’s remaining witnesses.
After Wednesday’s session, Ko Wa Lone told media outlets gathered at the court that he wanted to ask the government and judiciary whether they thought the charges he and his colleague were facing were fair.
“The soldiers responsible for the Inn Din massacre were already sentenced to 10 years in jail. But we, who reported about it, are facing 14 years in jail. Is that fair?” he asked. “We report to unearth the truth and we are being sued. Where is the truth for us? Where is the democracy and freedom?”
The families of the two reporters said they were hopeful that the court would decide to release them on Wednesday but were left deeply disappointed.
“Ko Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife believed that her husband would be released and that her family could enjoy the New Year festival together. But the court decision saddened her and everyone else in the family who had high hopes,” said the reporter’s sister, Ma Nyo Nyo Aye.
According to the family, Ko Kyaw Soe Oo was recovering from jaundice but still in poor health.
“Although our brother said he is getting well, we still want to have a proper medical check to make sure he is in good health. But the prison still bars us from doing so,” said Ma Nyo Nyo Aye.
Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon on Dec. 12.
They are accused of possessing confidential government papers and face a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison if found guilty.