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Two Reuters journalists accused of breaching Myanmar's state secrets law during their reporting of a massacre of Rohingya were sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday (Sep 3).

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were detained last December after a late-night meeting with police officers who handed them documents in what has been described by defense attorneys and press watchdogs as a case of entrapment.

"As they committed an offence under the state secrets act, they are sentenced to seven years in prison each", judge Ye Lwin told the court.

The journalists were investigating violence against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority; a military crackdown past year sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Myanmar for refugee camps in Bangladesh, where many still remain.

The pair's boss, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said that the conviction was "a sad day" for the organization, the two men and "the press everywhere".

A court in Myanmar sentenced two journalists from news agency Reuters to seven years of imprisonment amid mounting global criticism.

"These sentences mark a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights under Suu Kyi's government".

"Freedom of expression and rule of law are fundamental in a democracy, and this case has passed a long shadow over both today", he said.

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Expressing his disappointment, Knut Ostby, UN resident and humanitarian aid coordinator in Myanmar, called for the release of the journalists. "I believe in justice, democracy and freedom".

Britain's ambassador says the verdict against two Reuters journalists has undermined media freedom in Myanmar. Outside the court, police and journalists shouted as the two Reuters reporters were led to a truck to be taken away.

British ambassador Dan Chugg, speaking on behalf of European Union members, said the verdict had "dealt a hammer blow for the rule of law". Yanghee Lee, the United Nations' special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said on Twitter.

Myanmar has denied allegations of abuses leveled by refugees against its personnel, saying they conducted a legitimate counterinsurgency operation against Muslim militants in the state.

Suu Kyi's reputation as a defender of human rights has been eviscerated by her refusal to speak out against the military for its handling of the Rohingya crisis or in support of the jailed reporters.

The army has published its version of events at Inn Din village, conceding the Rohingya men were killed while in custody but saying it was a one-off act of abuse by a mix of security forces and ethnic Rakhine locals.

A United Nations mandated fact-finding mission said last week that Myanmar's military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with "genocidal intent" and called for top generals to be prosecuted.

The court earlier this year declined to stop the trial after an initial phase of presentation of evidence, even though a policeman called as a prosecution witness testified that his commander had ordered that documents be planted on the journalists.


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