Myanmar's Leader Remains Silent As Court Rejects Appeal By 2 Reuters Journalists
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Two Reuters journalists serving seven years in prison in Myanmar learned late last week that an appeal to overturn their sentences has failed. They were convicted of holding classified government documents linked to their coverage of the massacre of 10 Rohingya men during a military crackdown. It's widely believed that their jailing was a setup, meant as a warning to journalists who attempt to report on violence against the Rohingya, which several international agencies, including the United Nations, have called a genocide. Amid it all, Nobel Prize-winner and Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has remained silent.
Joining us now is Reuters' editor-in-chief Stephen Adler.
Welcome to the program.
STEPHEN ADLER: Thank you, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's start with your colleagues, the jailed journalists. What can you tell us about them and the work that they were doing?
ADLER: Well, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were working on a story on a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims in the small town of Inn Din in Rakhine state in Myanmar. And they had gotten very far along. They'd gotten photographs of the 10 men, who were kneeling in front of a grave. And we had pictures of them before they ended up in the grave and pictures of the same people both hacked to death and shot to death in the grave. So they were making great progress on the story, and they were actually coming close to identifying the individuals who had perpetrated the massacre when they were set up and arrested, clearly so - to stop them from reporting on that story.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's worth noting that a police captain who told the court in April that the journalists' arrest had indeed been a setup was punished for his testimony with a year in prison.
ADLER: Yes. It was absolutely clear that it was a sham trial. I think no observer - and there were dozens of international observers, and not a single one thought it was a normal, due-process trial. It was absolutely clear that the goal of the trial was to convict them, essentially, for doing journalism.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, this latest court ruling is obviously a setback. Will there be additional appeals?
ADLER: We're going to look at every possible option. There are court options. There's of course diplomatic options. What we really hope will happen is that the government will pardon them.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you say the government, you are indeed talking about Aung San Suu Kyi because she is the one who many people had hoped would intervene in this particular case. She is the leader of the civilian government. She's the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. And she's rapidly losing moral standing around the world. What are the stakes for her right now? Why hasn't she addressed this given that she was once a champion of free speech?
ADLER: Well, we're hoping she'll go back to that position. I can't say why this hasn't happened yet. But I think it would be tremendously important for the standing of Myanmar in the world - for its reputation to be democratizing, for its reputation to care about human rights. And I think it's very important for that country in terms of their economy, as well. The entire world has really passed judgment in a way that I think isn't helpful for the country. And I think she can easily turn this around.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to also ask - these jailed journalists also had families. How are they coping?
ADLER: The families are very strong. They're coping well. Each of them has a young daughter. Wa Lone and his wife Pan Ei Mon's daughter was born while Wa Lone was in prison, and he's only seen her very few times. You know, it's very, very difficult on the family. They're lovely people. They obviously care very much about their husbands and their family, and they want them back. But they've also been very, very strong - as have our two reporters, by the way, who encouraged us to continue with our reporting and to get out the story that they had started working on.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Stephen Adler, editor-in-chief for Reuters.
Thank you so much.
ADLER: Thank you, Lulu. I really appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.