Judge in Reuters case rejects ‘hostile witness’ claim


YANGON – The judge overseeing the trial of two detained Reuters journalists has rejected a request made by the prosecution for the testimony of a whistleblowing police officer to be deemed “hostile”.

Police Captain Moe Yan Naing appeared in Yangon’s Insein court on April 20 as a prosecution witness, but contradicted authorities’ version of events when he said he had been ordered to “set up” the reporters, Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in December.

The pair were investigating a military crackdown last year in northern Rakhine State, and face a potential 14-year jail term for handling “secret” documents related to the operation.

Police say they found the documents during a routine search, but the pair have told family members that they were invited to a meeting with police, where they were handed the documents, and arrested immediately afterwards.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

After his April 20 testimony, the prosecution had called on the judge, U Ye Lwin, to dismiss Moe Yan Naing’s account because he was a “hostile witness”, but the judge refused.

“He is a police officer and he spoke in court, that’s why he can’t easily be considered a hostile witness,” Ye Lwin said.

Ye Lwin also admonished the prosecution for not bringing Moe Yan Naing to court, and said he expected to see the police officer at the next trial, which is due to take place on May 9.

A representative for the prosecution said Moe Yan Naing couldn’t come to court because he was in jail. On April 29, Reuters reported he had been sentenced to a year in jail for breaching the the Police Disciplinary Act.

Speaking to reporters outside court after the hearing, U Khin Maung Win, a representative of the defence, said he was satisfied with the day’s developments.

“The court protected Police Captain Moe Yan Naing’s dignity,” he said. “Indeed the judge showed its code of conduct in this event.”

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Kyaw Soe Oo said he hoped that Moe Yan Naing would not be pressured into giving a different account during the next hearing.

“In addition, I want to say, don’t bully journalists,” he said.

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar