STRASBOURG: The EU’s diplomatic chief condemned Myanmar’s jailing of two Reuters journalists, hours after the country’s tarnished democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi strongly defended the men’s treatment.
A court in Myanmar jailed Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for seven years last week for breaching the country’s hardline Official Secrets Act while reporting on the Rohingya crisis.
The trial was widely seen as a bid to muzzle the press, and the reporters’ harsh sentences have attracted a chorus of international criticism.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini repeated a call for the reporters’ immediate, unconditional release, saying they had not had a fair trial. “Many observers saw this trial as a test of freedom of the media, democracy and the rule of law in the country. It is pretty clear that the test was failed,” Mogherini told the European Parliament.
“The sentence will also intimidate other journalists who could fear undue arrest or prosecution for doing their job.”
Earlier Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, hit back at widespread international concern over the trial, challenging critics to show where there had been a miscarriage of justice and insisting they had been fairly tried “in open court”.
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi was once lionised as a human rights champion for standing up to the military junta that ruled her country for decades, but her response to the Rohingya crisis has seen her reputation tarnished in the eyes of many observers.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi on Thursday, Suu Kyi said the army’s brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority – described by the UN as “genocide” – “could have been handled better”.
Army-led “clearance operations” that started last August drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities – rape, murder and arson – by Myanmar police and troops.
The European Parliament on Thursday also called for the reporters to be freed and urged the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, to review trade privileges granted to Myanmar when it transitioned to democracy in 2015.