UN human rights chief: Myanmar journalists' ruling shocking

Yangon, Myanmar: In her first day on the job, new UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet says she was "shocked" at the seven-year prison sentences handed down to two Reuters journalists in Myanmar, calling the trial a "travesty of justice" and urging their immediate release.

Bachelet joined a chorus of international figures denouncing the prison sentence after Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted on Monday of violating a colonial-era law on charges of illegally possessing official documents.

Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and  Wa Lone, are handcuffed as they are escorted by police out of the court on Monday.

Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and Wa Lone, are handcuffed as they are escorted by police out of the court on Monday.

The journalists, who were reporting on a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, testified that they did not solicit or knowingly possess any secret documents.

Bachelet said of the reporters: "I think the information they gave on the massacre was of public interest."

"So I will urge the Myanmar government to release them as soon as possible, immediately," the former Chilean president said.

"I was shocked today in the morning, when I woke up and learned that these two journalists from Reuters have been imposed a sentence of seven years of jail."

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet

Germany's foreign minister says he was dismayed by the conviction of two Reuters reporters in Myanmar on charges of illegally possessing official documents.

Foreign ministry spokesman Christoph Burger told reporters in Berlin on Monday that the verdict was a blow to press freedom in Myanmar.

Burger said Myanmar's crackdown against the Rohingya minority in the country's western state of Rakhine, which the journalists were reporting on, should be investigated.

He said Germany would coordinate its response with other European Union countries.

The journalists testified that they did not solicit or knowingly possess any secret documents. They were sentenced to seven years in prison.

Britain's ambassador says the verdict against two Reuters journalists has undermined media freedom in Myanmar.

British Ambassador Dan Chugg, who was in court for Monday's verdict, said the case has "struck a hammer-blow to the rule of law in Myanmar."

He said diplomats who attended the trial believe the judges ignored evidence and Myanmar's laws. The journalists testified they did not solicit or knowingly possess any secret documents, and a police officer who testified his commander had ordered documents be planted on the journalists was subsequently jailed for a year.

Chugg called for the journalists' release.

Reuters

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