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  • Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone leaves the court handcuffed, in a police vehicle, after a hearing in Yangon, Myanmar May 21, 2018.

    Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone leaves the court handcuffed, in a police vehicle, after a hearing in Yangon, Myanmar May 21, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 May 2018
Opinion

The defense attorney has demanded the prosecution demonstrate how the alleged documents were extracted from the journalists' phones.

A Myanmar judge is set to rule on the legitimacy of evidence allegedly extracted from the phones of a pair Reuters journalists six months after they were arrested in December.

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During court proceedings in Yangon this Monday, the pair's defense attorney demanded the prosecution demonstrate how the confidential documents were extracted from the journalists' phones after their arrest on December 12.

"I couldn't understand the situation because they are submitting unknown documents which we don't even know," said Wa Lone, 32, one of the detained journalists.

After the hearing, Defense Lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told Reuters: "Tomorrow, that expert witness will come and by looking at the phone handset and laptop that were seized from the defendants, he will explain how he extracted (the documents) ... whether it's technically correct."

The request came after the prosecution asked if a printed copy of the 21 documents would be admissible in court.

While investigating a story on the human rights abuses against a community of Rohingya Muslims, Wa Lone and his Reuters colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested and charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The reporters told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before, having been invited to meet the officers for dinner.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called a meeting for Thursday, May 24, to discuss the threat to press freedom in Myanmar, calling the case of the Reuters reporters as the most recent example of interference by the state.

In an interview with CPJ, Reuters’s Chief Operating officer , Reg Chua, said: "There's been any number of arrests – again not only of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo –in the last few years. I think journalists have clearly seen a message: 'Be careful about your coverage.'

"It's never a good thing when any country arrests journalists for doing their job and I think that while some journalists will be deterred, others will just be more careful, and in some cases that will spur people on to want to do even more coverage."

CPJ plans to honor the pair of Myanmar reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, with the PEN America/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in recognition for their services.

At the time of their arrest, the journalists had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys in a village in western Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The killings took place during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.

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