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US Ambassador Nikki Haley slams Burmese government for jailing reporters covering atrocities

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has blasted the Burmese government over the conviction of two Reuters journalists. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the actions of the Burmese government on Monday, after the country convicted two journalists for reporting on human rights violations by the country’s military.

What are the details?

Burma – also known as Myanmar under its current leadership – has been under increasing international pressure over allegations that its military has carried out genocide and other atrocities against ethnic minorities, primarily the Muslim Rohingya population.

Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were taken into custody last year while covering the deaths of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Myanmar. On the night of their arrest, Lone said, they were lured to a restaurant by a police lance corporal he had been trying to interview about the killings.

The officer handed the reporters some documents, and as the two left the restaurant they were seized by people in plainclothes and taken into custody. Lone and Oo were held in a Burmese prison for more than 265 days, until the government finally sentenced them on Monday to seven years for violating the “Official Secrets Act.”

The Official Secrets Act dates back to 1923, when Burma was under British rule. Under Section 3 (1) (c), violators can be imprisoned for up to 14 years “If any person for any purpose prejudicial or interests of the State obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret…document or information which is calculated to be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to the enemy.”

Lone and Soe Oo insist they were framed. According to Reuters, one police officer testified during the trial that the restaurant meeting had been a set-up. Reportedly, the officer’s wife and three children were subsequently evicted from police housing and he was sentenced to a year in prison under the Police Disciplinary Act.

What did Haley say?

On the day of Lone and Soe Oo’s convictions, Ambassador Haley posted a statement on Twitter, slamming the rulings.

“It is clear to all that the Burmese military has committed vast atrocities. In a free country, it is the duty of a responsible press to keep people informed and hold leaders accountable. The conviction of two journalists for doing their job is another terrible stain on the Burmese government. We will continue to call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

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