Vice President Pence calls for release of
jailed Reuters journalists
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[September 05, 2018]
By Makini Brice and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President
Mike Pence on Tuesday called on Myanmar's government to reverse a court
ruling that imprisoned two Reuters journalists for seven years and to
release them immediately.
The journalists were found guilty on Monday on official secrets charges
in a landmark case seen as a test of progress toward democracy in
Myanmar, which was ruled by a military junta until 2011.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were investigating the killing by
security forces of Rohingya villagers at the time of their arrest last
December, and had pleaded not guilty.
"Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo shd be commended—not imprisoned—for their work
exposing human rights violations & mass killings. Freedom of religion &
freedom of the press are essential to a strong democracy," Pence wrote
Pence is the most senior U.S. official to add his voice to an
international outcry against the verdict by a Myanmar judge, who said
the two had breached the colonial-era Official Secrets Act when they
collected and obtained confidential documents.
In Yangon earlier on Tuesday, the wives of two journalists insisted that
the men were innocent and called for them to be reunited with their
"Deeply troubled by the Burmese court ruling sentencing 2 @Reuters
journalists to 7 years in jail for doing their job reporting on the
atrocities being committed on the Rohingya people," Pence wrote in
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that
the United States would become more vocal about the two journalists'
Speaking at a news conference in New York marking the U.S. assumption of
the rotating chairmanship of the Security Council for September, Haley
said the reporters were "in prison for telling the truth."
Mark Green, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International
Development, said "these convictions are an enormous setback for
democracy and the rule of law in Burma."
The verdict came amid mounting pressure on the government of Nobel
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over a security crackdown sparked by attacks
by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in
west Myanmar in August 2017.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National World War II
museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. August 23, 2018.
More than 700,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled into
Bangladesh since then, according to U.N. agencies. The Rohingya, who
regard themselves as native to Rakhine, are widely considered as
interlopers by the country's Buddhist majority and are denied
citizenship.Neither Suu Kyi nor her government have commented
publicly on the case since the reporters were convicted.
The journalists were arrested on Dec. 12 while investigating the
killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys and other abuses involving
soldiers and police in the village of Inn Din.
Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities against Rohingya by its
security forces, saying it conducted a legitimate counterinsurgency
operation against Muslim militants.
The military acknowledged the killing of the 10 Rohingya at Inn Din
after arresting the Reuters reporters.
A U.N 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. Myanmar rejected the findings.
The International Criminal Court is considering whether it has
jurisdiction over events in Rakhine, while the United States, the
European Union and Canada have sanctioned Myanmar military and
police officers over the crackdown.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations;
Editing by Eric Beech, Toni Reinhold)
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