State Department criticizes Myanmar for ruling on imprisoned journalists

State Department criticizes Myanmar for ruling on imprisoned journalists
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The State Department on Wednesday criticized the highest court in Myanmar for rejecting the appeals of two Reuters journalists who are in jail, saying the ruling "sends a profoundly negative signal about freedom of expression" in Myanmar.

"Burma’s Supreme Court decision yesterday to uphold the sentencing of Pulitzer-prize winning journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, despite serious irregularities in the case against them, sends a profoundly negative signal about freedom of expression and the protection of journalists in Burma," the department said in a statement, using the country's former name.

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The department added that it urges the country to "reunite these journalists with their families."

"In this regard, the United States is deeply concerned by recent arrests of reporters, political activists, civil society members, and satirical performers in Burma. We urge Burma to protect hard-earned freedoms, prevent further backsliding on recent democratic gains, and reunite these journalists with their families," the statement reads.

Myanmar's highest court on Tuesday rejected the appeals of Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, who were sentenced to seven years in jail last year after a judge ruled they violated the law by obtaining secret documents during their reporting on the killing of Rohingya Muslims.

The reporters, who have said they were set up by police, have denied any wrongdoing. 

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Reuters chief counsel Gail Gove said Tuesday. “Instead, they were victims of a police set-up to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.”