MNA Exclusive Desk: A court in Myanmar on Monday charged two jailed Reuters journalists with obtaining secret state documents, moving the landmark press freedom case into its trial stage 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 Secret Act which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The journalists pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
The case has attracted global attention. Some Western diplomats and rights groups say it is a test of progress towards full democracy under the administration of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in a country where the military still wields considerable influence.
In his ruling on Monday, the judge said the court had filed charges against both reporters under section 3.1 (c) of the act to probe the prosecution’s allegations that they collected and obtained secret documents pertaining to the security forces with the intention to harm national security.
Proceedings will now enter the trial phase, during which defence lawyers will summon witnesses before the judge, who will then deliver a verdict, according to legal experts.
Earlier this month, defence lawyers asked the judge to throw out the case, arguing the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the charges. They said the journalists were arrested in a sting operation by the police that was aimed at interfering with their reporting.
At the same 2 July hearing, prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung urged the judge to charge the reporters. He said documents they had in their hands when they were arrested detailed the movements of security forces, while further documents found on their mobile phones ranged from confidential to top secret.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay has declined to comment throughout the proceedings, saying Myanmar courts are independent and the case would be conducted according to the law. He did not immediately answer calls seeking comment after the court ruling on Monday. Source-News Agency.