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November 6, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 7:02am

Reuters launches appeal against seven-year sentence handed to Myanmar journalists as one writes children’s book behind bars

By James Walker

Reuters has launched an appeal against a Myanmar court’s decision to hand seven-year sentences to two of its journalists, one of whom has written a children’s book about journalism while behind bars.

Wa Lone (pictured) and his colleague Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Myanmar after reporting on the military’s persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

They were found guilty of breaching the country’s official secrets act in June and sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Lawyers launched an appeal against the decision on Monday.

In a statement, Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said: “We filed an appeal today on behalf of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo because the trial court’s ruling was wrong.

“In condemning them as spies, it ignored compelling evidence of a police set-up, serious due process violations, and the prosecution’s failure to prove any of the key elements of the crime.

“Contrary to Myanmar law, it shifted the burden of proof from the prosecution to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

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“Now is the time for Myanmar to uphold its stated dedication to rule of law, freedom of the press, and democracy by ordering the release of our colleagues, whether on appeal or by granting the families’ request for a pardon.”

The decision to imprison the pair following a widely criticised trial has attracted ire from the international community, including the United Nations.

Before their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo reported the story of Myanmar forces massacring ten Rohingya Muslim men in the country’s Rakhine state.

Wa Lone has also authored children’s books. His latest book, written behind bars, is in both Burmese and English. It follows Jay Jay the Journalist, a boy reporter who investigates a sudden sickness among animals in his village.

Jay Jay discovers that a power plant polluting the local river is the source of the problem, according to a series of tweets by Reuters Tokyo correspondent Mari Saito. His article puts pressure on the plant to change.

There are also a series of questions at the back of the book for children to work on. One of the questions asks: “What does a journalist do, and why is it important?”

Wa Lone has previously written a children’s book on nature and is the co-founder of The Third Story Project, an organisation that produces and distributes books to children for free.

Picture: Reuters/Ann Wang

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