UN chief urges Myanmar to pardon Reuters reporters


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks with reporters during a press conference leading into next week's General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 20 September 2018. Photo: Justin Lane/EPA-EFE

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped that Myanmar's government will pardon two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven years in jail after they reported on massacres in Rakhine state.

Guterres said it was "not acceptable" for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, to be jailed "for what they were doing" as journalists in Myanmar.

"It is my deep belief that that should not happen, and I hope that the government will be able to provide a pardon to release them as quickly as possible," he told a press conference at UN headquarters in New York.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week said that the two journalists were not convicted because of their work but because they broke the law.

"They were not jailed because they were journalists" but because "the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act," she said in her first direct comments on the issue.

The Reuters reporters had denied the charges, insisting they were set up while exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din in September last year.

The case has sparked an international outcry and is seen as an attempt to muzzle reporting on last year's crackdown by Myanmar's security forces on the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said the jailing of the pair "sends a message to all journalists in Myanmar that they cannot operate fearlessly, but must rather make a choice to either self-censor or risk prosecution."

© AFP

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