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Suu Kyi defends State jailing of journalists

Naypyidaw, Thursday

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 lionised 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.

“This is a disgraceful attempt by Aung San Suu Kyi to defend the indefensible,” said Amnesty International’s Minar Pimple, describing the leader’s comments as “a deluded misrepresentation of the facts”.

“The international condemnation heading Aung San Suu Kyi’s way is fully deserved, she should be ashamed.”                                     — AFP

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