A provincial Myanmar court sentenced four journalists and the chief executive of magazine Unity Journal on Thursday for producing an investigative report on a weapons factory.
The five men were convicted for violating the government’s security by breaking the 1923 Burma State Secrets Act pertaining to trespassing in a prohibited area with prejudicial purpose. Unity Journal published a story that suggested the government used the weapons factory to produce chemical weapons.
They were sentenced to 10 years of hard labour, which will include building roads and digging ditches.
As chief executive U Tint Hsan was led away from the courtroom he told reporters that it was injustice and the sentence was a way “to control the press”.
President Thein Sein said on a nationally broadcasted speech, “If media freedoms are used to endanger state security rather than give benefits to the country, I want to announce that effective action will taken under existing laws.”
Kyaw Lin, lawyer for convicted chief executive of Unity Tin San, called the verdict “unfair” and suggested it was not appropriate to use a law that was intended to apply to spies.
“These people are not spies in this case. They were just reporting,” said Mr Lin.
Since the case, the magazine went out of business.
The court’s verdict is “a very dark day for freedom of expression in Myanmar” according to Amnesty International. – Compiled from wire and internet sources by Daisy Montalvo
Top photo from the International Rice Research Institute’s flickr photostream.