Myanmar’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal Tuesday by two Reuters journalists jailed for seven years each on charges linked to their reporting on the Rohingya crisis, one of the defence lawyers confirmed.
Reporters Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have been behind bars since their arrest in December 2017 under the Official Secrets Act.
The initial conviction in September was upheld by the Yangon High Court in January.
On Tuesday, the reporters were not at the Supreme Court in the capital Naypyidaw to hear the ruling that once again went against them.
“Our appeal was rejected,” Khin Maung Zaw told AFP. “They upheld the ruling of the lower court.”
Supporters believe thee pair have been punished for investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in September 2017.
The story earned the team a Pulitzer Prize, one of the top honours in journalism.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted of possessing classified documents relating to security operations in Rakhine during a brutal military crackdown against the Rohingya that forced some 740,000 to flee over the border into Bangladesh.
Rights groups and legal experts say the case was riddled with irregularities.
A whistleblowing police officer testified during their trial that his superior had ordered his team to trap the reporters in a sting — testimony the judge chose to ignore.
Rights groups have urged Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to use her influence to secure a pardon for the pair, but she has so far refused to intervene.
“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 in a statement following Tuesday’s ruling.
“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.”
Award-winning Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis has died aged 58 after a battle with cancer, Greece’s foreign press association said Sunday.
Athens-born Behrakis, who worked at Reuters for more than 30 years and died on Saturday, was “one of the best photographers of his generation”, the press body said in a statement.
“His pictures shaped the very way in which we perceived events, from the war in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone to the refugee crisis and the Arab Spring.”
Prestigious awards included the World Press Photo in 2000, Bayeux-Calvados in 2016, and Photographer of the Year by the Guardian in 2015.
The married father of two also led a Reuters team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for coverage of the migration crisis, which erupted the previous year.
“Few people abandon everything to capture the truth. Yannis Behrakis defended truth in the four corners of the world,” Greece’s junior minister for media Lefteris Kretsos said in a statement.
In 2000, Behrakis had narrowly escaped death in Sierra Leone in an ambush by gunmen that killed Reuters colleague Kurt Schork and AP cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno.
One of his most striking pictures from Europe’s migration crisis is of a Syrian father carrying and kissing his daughter as he walked towards Greece’s border with North Macedonia in the rain.
“This picture proves that there are superheroes after all,” Behrakis later explained. “He doesn’t wear a red cape, but he has a black plastic cape made out of garbage bags. For me, this represents the universal father and the unconditional love of father to daughter.”
A Myanmar judge dismissed an appeal Friday by two Reuters journalists jailed for seven years while investigating atrocities committed against the Rohingya, dashing slim hopes that the pair could be freed early.
Reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested in Yangon in December 2017 and later jailed for violating the state secrets act, a charge Reuters said was trumped up to muzzle their reporting.
Prosecutors say the two had classified information regarding security operations in Rakhine state, from where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled during an army-led crackdown the United Nations has dubbed “ethnic cleansing”.
Aung Naing, a judge at the Yangon Regional High Court, said Friday the original verdict was “not wrong according to the law” and was a “reasonable decision”.
“The court decides to dismiss the appeal,” he said.
Lawyers can now appeal to the Supreme Court in Myanmar, a process that could take an estimated six months.
The reporters’ wives cried after the decision which condemns the pair to continue their stay at Yangon’s notorious Insein prison, where they have been held for the last 13 months.
The two men — who were not present for the decision — have insisted they were victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said superior ordered other to entrap them.
At the time of the arrest, they were probing a massacre of 10 Rohingya.
The original trial was widely regarded as a sham and seen as punishment for their investigation, sparking outrage around the world including from US Vice President Mike Pence.
Outside the country, the two men have been hailed as media freedom heroes and jointly named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, alongside other persecuted and slain journalists.
But they have gained little sympathy within Myanmar.
The violent military campaign in 2017 forced more than 720,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh, with refugees bringing accounts of murder, rape and arson.
UN investigators have called for top generals to be investigated for a genocide and singled out civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for criticism for failing to stop the crackdown.
The image of the formerly renowned champion of human rights has been further damaged by the Reuters trial, and she has yet to speak up in their defence.
Reacting to the verdict outside the court the European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt said he looked to the president of Myanmar to “correct” the injustice with a possible pardon.
A Myanmar court will hear the appeal later this month of two Reuters journalists jailed for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis, a lawyer said Saturday.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were found guilty under a state secrets act in September after exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men during a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state last year.
The pair – who have been held behind bars for nearly a year since their arrest last December – were sentenced to seven years in jail, a verdict that drew widespread condemnation, including from US Vice President Mike Pence.
Lawyer Than Zaw Aung told AFP the date for the appeal hearing has been set for December 24 at the Yangon regional court.
“It is difficult to say how long the appeal can take,” he said, estimating that it would run for “at least two weeks”, but could stretch to months.
“We are hoping for their unconditional release.”
The reporters will remain in prison during the appeal process.
The pair were investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya men by security forces in Inn Din village, an atrocity that the military later admitted in a rare acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
And as the much-criticised trial was being held, one whistleblowing police officer told the court how a superior had ordered his men to set up a sting to entrap the reporters – testimony the judge chose to ignore.
Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has remained defiant in the face of criticism and insisted the case upheld the rule of law — further tarnishing her image as a democracy icon after her silence over the military’s actions against the Rohingya Muslims.
UN investigators have called for senior military generals to be prosecuted for genocide over their handling of the Rohingya crisis, in which more than 720,000 people were forcibly expelled to neighbouring Bangladesh’s refugee camps.
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday robustly defended the jailing of two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the Rohingya crisis, as she hit back at global criticism of a trial widely seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press.
The country’s de facto leader acknowledged that the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority — which the United Nations has cast as “genocide” — could have been “handled better”, but insisted the two reporters had been treated fairly.
“They were not jailed because they were journalists” but because “the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act”, she said.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were each imprisoned for seven years last week for breaching the country’s hardline Official Secrets Act while reporting on atrocities committed during the military crackdown in Rakhine state.
Suu Kyi, once garlanded as a global rights champion, has come under intense pressure to use her moral authority inside Myanmar to defend the pair.
Challenging critics of the verdict — including the UN, rights groups who once lionized her, and the US Vice President — to “point out” where there has been a miscarriage of justice, Suu Kyi said the case upheld the rule of law.
“The case was held in open court… I don’t think anybody has bothered to read the summary of the judge,” she said during a discussion at the World Economic Forum, adding the pair still had the right to appeal.
Her comments drew an indignant response from rights groups who have urged the Nobel Laureate to press for a presidential pardon for the reporters.
“Open courts are designed to shed light on the justice process,” said Sean Bain of the International Commission of Jurists.
“Sadly in this case we’ve seen both institutional and individual failings to hold up the principles of rule of law and human rights.”
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 ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates towards a country ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.
A UN fact-finding panel has called for Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing and several other top generals to be prosecuted for genocide.
The International Criminal Court has said it has jurisdiction to open an investigation, even though Myanmar is not a member of the tribunal.
Suu Kyi, who has bristled at foreign criticism of her country, on Thursday softened her defense of the crackdown against “terrorists” from the Muslim minority.
“There are of course ways (in) which, in hindsight, the situation could have been handled better,” she said.
– War on journalism –
But she also appeared to turn responsibility onto neighboring Bangladesh for failing to start the repatriation of the nearly one million-strong Rohingya refugee community to Myanmar.
Bangladesh “was not ready” to start repatriation of the Rohingya in January as agreed under a deal between the two countries, she said.
Yet Myanmar does not want its Rohingya, denying them citizenship while the Buddhist-majority public falsely labels them “Bengali” interlopers.
Rohingya refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety, restitution for lost lands and citizenship.
The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar’s nascent media scene.
The pair denied the charges, insisting they were set up while exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din in September last year.
This week, the UN rights office accused Myanmar of “waging a campaign against journalists”.
It decried the use of the courts and the law by the “government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism”.
A UN panel is set to release the second part of its report into the atrocities over the coming days.
Myanmar will come under the international spotlight again on September 25 when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York.
Local media have reported that Suu Kyi will not be attending the New York meeting.
A Myanmar court postponed ruling on Monday on whether two Reuters journalists violated a state secrets law while reporting on the Rohingya crisis, with a new date set for next week.
“The verdict will be announced on September 3,” said district judge Khin Maung Maung in a swift hearing at a courthouse in Yangon, adding that the presiding judge was sick.
The decision delays the long-anticipated ruling for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who has been in Myanmar’s Insein prison for some eight months.
They were arrested in December after being invited to a dinner with police in Yangon and pounced on as they left the restaurant, accused of possessing classified material.
Authorities charged them with violating a colonial-era state secrets act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.
But the claims were undercut by a police witness who said his superior had ordered a set-up and by arguments that the allegedly secret documents had been published in state media.
The case has sparked fears of eroding press freedoms under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reuters has robustly denied the charges and the newswire launched a global advocacy campaign that included diplomats, celebrities and the legal assistance of prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
“Whatever they decide for us, we will not be afraid,” Wa Lone told reporters as he left the courthouse and was led back into a police van.
Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were probing the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Myanmar’s Rakhine state a week after the military launched a sweeping crackdown on members of the stateless Muslim minority.
The United Nations and Washington have called the campaign “ethnic cleansing”, after some 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for Bangladesh, bringing with them testimonies of rape, arson, and killings in the northern part of the state.
Myanmar rejects the charges but has admitted the killings investigated by Reuters took place.
Journalists working for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reuters were among three reporters being held by Sudanese authorities on Thursday a day after they were arrested covering demonstrations against rising food prices that were dispersed by police.
Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali, a 51-year-old who has worked for AFP in Khartoum for nearly a decade, was covering the protests on Wednesday in the Sudanese capital’s twin city of Omdurman, where riot police fired tear gas on some 200 protesters.
Idris Ali was unreachable after the protest and authorities informed AFP on Thursday that he had been arrested along with two other journalists, including one working for Reuters, and was being held at a detention centre run by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
Authorities initially said Idris Ali would be released within hours but as of late Thursday, more than 24 hours after he was detained, he was still being held.
Authorities said the three journalists “are being investigated” but provided no further details.
“AFP management strongly condemns the arrest of Mr. Idris Ali and asks Sudanese authorities for his immediate release,” the agency said.
Reuters did not name their detained reporter who they said was a stringer — a term used to describe people who work for media outlets part time or on short term assignments when news breaks.
The agency said they had last heard from their reporter just before they left to cover the protests.
“We do not know the circumstances of the detention and are actively seeking additional information about the situation,” a Reuters spokesperson said in their dispatch on the arrests.
Several protesters were also reported to have been detained at the demonstration.
Sporadic protests have erupted across Sudan after prices of food items, but mainly bread, surged following a jump in the cost of flour due to a shortage of wheat supplies.
Wednesday’s rally was called by the main opposition Umma Party, a day after a similar demonstration was held near the presidential palace in Khartoum following a call issued by the Communist Party. Tuesday’s protest was also broken up by police.
Similar protests were held in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.
The authorities cracked down on those protests to prevent a repeat of deadly unrest that followed an earlier round of subsidy cuts in 2013.
Rights groups said dozens of people were killed when security forces crushed the 2013 demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.
Critics have repeatedly accused President Omar al-Bashir’s regime of cracking down on the media in Sudan, with watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranking the country 174th out of 180 countries in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
YBNL’s latest signee, David Shokoya, popularly known as Davolee, has narrated why he was not able to pursue a college degree and rather opted for music.
According to him, the economic hardship as well as the rate of unemployment in Nigeria, prevented him from furthering his education.
He revealed this in an exclusive interview with Channels Television’s Entertainment News, where he laid bare his struggles and travails and how he has gradually overcome, especially since his talent caught the attention of the YBNL boss, Olamide.
Born in the Isolo area of Lagos state, Shokoya revealed that the street life had a huge influence on his music.
The artist stated that he realised his talent at a young age and while there was no one to sponsor his university education, he thought it wise to go into full time music and face the hustle squarely.
Speaking further on how he got the attention of the YBNL music imprint, Shokoya explained that he promoted himself a lot via social media.
“I took my Instagram personal then I do freestyles and I tag celebrities as much as possible – So luckily for me, Baddo got into it and he messaged me on Instagram”; a situation which he described as unbelievable and very emotional for him.
In November 2016, the YBNL leader Olamide revealed Davolee had become a member of the team in a video posted online.
Although the hard knock life has made it behind him, the budding artist says the lessons it thought him are invaluable.
The Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, on Wednesday, swore in a new Head of Service, Saleh Abubakar.
The new appointee, who is the Chief of Staff to the Governor, takes over from Dauda Yahaya, who has attended the mandatory years of service.
While administering the oath on the Head of Service, the Governor said the swearing in of the new appointee would reinvigorate his administration by ensuring transparency, probity and accountability.
“Today’s event will further reinvigorate the administrative machinery in the state, strengthen the promotion of rule of law, equity, and justice, accountability, transparency and probity in the conduct of government business and it will serve as a step forward towards entrenchment of our reform programme in all sectors of our state economy”
Governor Gaidam, however, praised the outgoing Head of Service whom according to him, was equally an experienced technocrat.
He, therefore, urged the new Head of Service to emulate him, while also expressing optimism that Abubakar, who has served diligently since the beginning of his administration, will justify the confidence reposed in him.
“I am glad to say that Saleh Abubakar had impressive record of service before his appointment to the present position as Head of Service and it is this yardstick which informed my approval of his appointment.
“I however have no doubt in my mind that owing to his wealth of experience, exposure and records of performance in the past, he will be able to discharge his duties to the satisfaction of all,” the governor said.
The swearing in ceremony also witnessed the oath taken of the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Saboli Mohammed. Also, Baba Gishiwari took an oath as a member of the State Judicial Service Commission, while Ali Garga was sworn in as member of the Fiscal Responsibility Board.
The Nigerian Police has said it would not condone any act of corruption and indiscipline from officers and men, that would dent the image of the force.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Finance and Administration, Shuaibu Lawal Gambo, gave the warning when he paid a visit to the Nasarawa State Police Command.
The visit is in continuation of his tour to Police Commands in the North Central Zone of the country.
Addressing officers at the state headquarters, he noted that corruption among Police personnel has become the order of the day and emphasised that the Force would not take it lightly with any officer caught engaging in any form of corruption.
“I also want to use this medium to warn that cases of corruption will not be tolerated, and illegal road blocks will not be tolerated. We want you all to have respect for the human right, you must recognise that every human being has certain rights,” he said.
He maintained that no organisation can achieve desired results in an atmosphere of indiscipline and warned that drastic measures will be meted on any officer found wanting.
He then urged them to be responsible in their dealings as they are being looked upon as role models.
Gambo also revealed the determination of the Force in improving the welfare of its personnel especially in the areas of promotion, housing and health among others, aimed at boosting their morale for effective service delivery.
“The Inspector General of Police wants you to know that we appreciate your contribution and the sacrifices you are making for the country and we want to assure you that the sacrifices are well noted and on his part he is doing all he can to make sure that he provides better welfare packages for you all.”
On his part, the State Commissioner of Police, CP Abubakar Bello, appreciated the visit and used the platform to enumerate challenges facing the command, including inadequate manpower and logistics.
“Your presence in our midst today is gratifying because it gives us the opportunity to give you firsthand information on our activities so that you can help us,” the CP said.
A legal practitioner, Mr Isaac Anumudu, has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to reveal the identities of the owners of all the moneys being discovered by the Commission.
Mr Anumudu made the call on Sunrise Daily, in reaction to the series of cash recoveries made by the EFCC in the past few weeks, one of which was the discovery of a huge sum of money in an apartment in Ikoyi area of Lagos State.
He believes that the inability of the anti-graft agency to clarify the ownership of the recovered cash in Ikoyi is giving room for suspicion.
The lawyer wondered why the whistleblower could not reveal critical information as to who dropped the money and how it got to the apartment.
“First of all you look at the recoveries, the way and manner they came. There is a whistle blowing 49 million in Kaduna airport, how come someone would carry that humongous amount of money in Naira and not in Dollars to an airport?
“Why did the whistleblower identify and was able to blow whistle as to where the fund is, without information as to who dropped the money and how it got there?” Anumudu questioned.
He further criticised the funds found in a Bureau De Change at the Balogun Market in Lagos, stressing that the place was meant for exchange of all forms of currency.
“You tell me you found a million of Dollars in a Bureau De Change, what do they sell in a Bureau De Change? pure water, vegetable, cosmetics, provisions, no.
“What goes on in a Bureau De Change is exchange of all forms of currency, Dollar, Naira, Euro, Pound.
“So telling me you found, you didn’t tell us how that became illegal, you didn’t tell us whom you are pursuing, what lead you are pursuing that led you to finding that kind of money, you now suspect it was money gotten from corrupt practices.
“What whistle are you blowing if you whistle that you found law books in my office as a lawyer? There is nothing illegal in finding money in a Bureau De Change”, Mr Anumudu stated.