A court in Myanmar has rejected an appeal by two reporters of the Reuters news agency, sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the country's Official Secrets Act, in a case that rallied press freedom advocates.
In September last year, a Yangon district court sentenced Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years in prison for illegal possession of official documents, sparking an global outcry from activists and diplomats in a case seen by many as a test of Myanmar's fledgeling democracy.
Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained on December 12, 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
"The 2 journalists were jailed for their reporting & exposing a massacre".
"We will continue to advocate at all levels for the just release of these courageous journalists", State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement that used the USA government's preferred name for Myanmar.
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".
Before their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys by security forces and civilians in Rakhine State during an Army crackdown that began in August 2017.
"The court decides to dismiss the appeal", he said.
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.
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Explaining his verdict, Judge Aung Naing said the reporters had behaved in a way that showed they meant to harm the country.
The two reporters, who were not present at the time of the decision, insisted that they were allegedly victims of a police set-up.
Once a long-time political prisoner herself, Ms Suu Kyi has shown little sympathy for the young men's plight and in September denied that they were jailed because they were journalists.
The violent military campaign in 2017 forced more than 7,20,000 Rohingya travel across the border to Bangladesh, with refugees bringing their stories of murder, rape and arson.
United Nations investigators have called for top Myanmar generals to be investigated for genocide, and criticised the country's de facto leader Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to stop the attacks.
The image of the formerly renowned champion of human rights has been further damaged by the Reuters conviction.
The legal team can lodge an appeal with Myanmar's Supreme Court but some see a presidential pardon as another way out, even though the president Win Myint is a Suu Kyi loyalist.
Kristian Schmidt, the European Union ambassador to Myanmar said Friday's ruling was a "miscarriage of justice and it gives us great concern for the independence of the justice system of Myanmar".