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>> A court in Myanmar has charged two jailed Reuters' reporters with obtaining state secrets on Monday. The ruling moves the landmark press freedom case to its trial stage after six months of preliminary hearings. A Yangon District court charge reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with breaching the colonial era Official Secrets Act.
Both have pled not guilty to the charges. Outside the court, Wa Lone said he and Kyaw Soe Oo had committed no crime and would testify to their innocence in court.>>
> We will face the court, we will not retreat or give up or be shaken by this.
>> Reuters' Simon Lewis is in Yangon.>> Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo face up to 14 years in prison for allegedly obtaining documents containing official secrets. Bringing charges against the reporters means that the proceedings now move to trial. That's where defense lawyers will bring witnesses before the judge who will then deliver a verdict.
>> The case has garnered worldwide attention. Some diplomats and rights groups say it is a major test of press freedoms under the administration of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar's military still wields huge influence in the country. Earlier this month, defense lawyers asked the judge to throw out the case, arguing the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the charges.
The reporter's defense lawyers say the journalists were arrested in a sting operation aimed at interfering with their reporting. At the same July 2nd hearing, Prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung urged the judge to charge the reporters. He said the documents they had in their hands when they were arrested detailed the movements of security forces.
While further documents found on their mobile phones ranged from confidential to top secret. At the time of their arrest in December, the reporters had been investigating the killing of ten Rohingya Muslim men in a village in Myanmar's Rakhine State. The killings took place during a military crackdown that the UN says led to more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
In a statement after Monday's ruling, Reuters President and editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said, quote, Reuters journalists were doing their jobs in an independent and impartial way. And there are no facts or evidence to suggest that they've done anything wrong or broken any law. Today's decision casts serious doubt on Myanmar's commitment to press freedom and the rule of law.
Myanmar's government has declined to comment throughout the proceedings, saying only that Myanmar's courts are independent and the case would be conducted according to law.