Moroccan press calls for probe into Khashoggi case

By Khalid Mejdoub

RABAT (AA) – The National Union of the Moroccan Press (SNPM) on Sunday called on Saudi authorities to launch an independent investigation into the disappearance of veteran journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

In a statement, the SNPM voiced deep concern over Khashoggi’s disappearance after entering the Saudi Consulate, calling on Moroccan journalists to join a planned rally outside the Saudi Embassy in Rabat on Oct. 25 to pile pressure for knowing the fate of the veteran journalist.

On the same day Khashoggi arrived at the consulate, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the building while journalist was also inside, police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of Khashoggi’s fate, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S., and the U.K — are pressing the case to be cleared up as soon as possible.

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Two Tunisian journalists’ bodies found in Libya: Report

By Walid Abdullah

TRIPOLI (AA) – The bodies of two Tunisian journalists have been found in Libya after having been abducted four years ago, according to local media reports.

“The bodies of Tunisian journalists Sufian al-Shawarbi and Nadeer al-Qatari were discovered in the Bu Mesafir forest on the outskirts of the city of Derna,” Alnabaa, a private Libyan television channel, reported late Monday.

Found by forces loyal to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, the bodies have since reportedly been taken to Benghazi and the slain journalists’ next of kin contacted.

Neither Haftar’s forces nor Tunis have yet to comment on the reported discovery.

Al-Shawarbi and al-Qatari were both abducted in Libya in September of 2014 by an unidentified armed group while covering events in the conflict-ravaged country.

Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of long-serving President Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.

Indonesian journalists slam Reuters reporters’ verdict

ANKARA (AA) – The Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI) on Tuesday condemned Myanmar after a court sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in jail.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

According to a statement by AJI, the two journalists had been working on stories about military crackdowns in the Rakhine state.

“The verdict is a serious threat to press freedom, a bad precedent and a major setback for Myanmar's democracy,” the AJI statement read.

It said, “AJI believed it is important for Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries to have a press freedom and freedom of speech, which will encourage transparency and accountability within the government.”

AJI called on Myanmar authorities to respect the rights of the journalists in “carrying out their professional work, including their freedom of expression.”

The alliance also offered its support to both the journalists and to Reuters.

“We called organizations and individuals in various regions to support both Reuters journalists as a part of collective actions to preserve press freedom in southeast Asia,” it added.

Israel breaks up demo for detained Palestine journalist

By Qays Abu Samra

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Several Palestinian journalists suffered from teargas after Israeli forces dispersed a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday.

The protest was held to show solidarity with Palestinian journalist Ali Dar Ali, who remains incarcerated in Israel’s Ofir prison west of Ramallah.

“Israel continues to target Palestinian jouranlists to cover up its crimes against the Palestinian people,” Naser Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told demonstrators.

“We will continue to work with the International Federation of Journalists, along with other advocacy groups, with a view to holding Israel accountable and securing the release of detained journalists,” he added.

Dar Ali was detained by Israel last month on charges of “inciting violence”.

According to Palestinian figures, some 6,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli prisons, including roughly 350 minors, scores of women and at least six lawmakers.

UPDATE 5 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH REACTION FROM GERMANY

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

"The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar," it said in a statement.

France has also slammed the sentence and reiterated its call for the release of two imprisoned journalists, as well as allowing free access of media in Rakhine.

"France reaffirms its constant commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and respect for these freedoms is a cornerstone of any democratic society," French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Germany sharply criticized the court decision, with the government’s Human Rights Commissioner Baerbel Kofler saying that it was a “serious blow” to press freedom in Myanmar.

“The two journalists were found guilty of treason based on a law from the colonial era. They have done nothing other than supporting the pursuit of truth in Rakhine (state),” she said in a statement.

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

"The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

London-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) also condemned the conviction of the two Reuters journalists, saying that it signaled "another failure by the National League for Democracy administration to protect human rights and press freedom in Burma."

"… and stands in stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by the military for the crimes that these reporters exposed," the statement published on Monday added.

UPDATE 4 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH REACTION FROM BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

"The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar," it said in a statement.

France has also slammed the sentence and reiterated its call for the release of two imprisoned journalists, as well as allowing free access of media in Rakhine.

"France reaffirms its constant commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and respect for these freedoms is a cornerstone of any democratic society," French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ​

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

"The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

London-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) also condemned the conviction of the two Reuters journalists, saying that it signaled "another failure by the National League for Democracy administration to protect human rights and press freedom in Burma."

"… and stands in stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by the military for the crimes that these reporters exposed," the statement published on Monday added.

*Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this report from Ankara

UPDATE 3 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH REACTION FROM FRANCE

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced two Reuters news agency journalists to seven years in jail for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by security officials.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in the western Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing classified documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

“The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar,” it said in a statement.

France has also slammed the sentence and reiterated its call for the release of two imprisoned journalists, as well as allowing free access of media in Rakhine.

"France reaffirms its constant commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and respect for these freedoms is a cornerstone of any democratic society," French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ​

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

“The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

* Hajer M’tiri contributed to this report from Paris

UPDATE 2 – Myanmar slaps prison sentences on 2 Reuters journalists

UPDATES WITH STATEMENT BY REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Two Myanmar journalists of the Reuters on Monday have been given seven years jail sentence for investigation into the murder of Rohingya Muslim men by the security officials in western Rakhine state.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison during the investigation into the murder of 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine state.

Judge Ye Lwin of Yangon’s Northern District Court said each journalist was handed a seven-year imprisonment as they were found guilty of obtaining and possessing the state secret documents which they possibly transferred to the insurgent groups that are fighting against the government.

Wa Lone said the ruling is unfair as they just did what journalists were supposed to do during investigation into the unlawful killings.

“We did nothing wrong, and we have no fear. We still believe in democracy and freedom of speech,” said Wa Lone.

“We will fight for justice until the end,” he said.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said the ruling is unfair. “We will do everything legally.”

– Criticism

The United States embassy, after the conviction, called on Myanmar to release the journalists immediately, saying it is “a major setback” to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms.

“The clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar,” it said in a statement.

The ruling also drew criticism from local and international rights groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it marks “a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights” under the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was accused of failing to stop the military atrocities on Rohingya Muslims.

“The outrageous convictions of the Reuters journalists show Myanmar courts’ willingness to muzzle those reporting on military atrocities,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

The journalists were investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya men in a remote village in Rakhine state last September. Military had admitted soldiers were involved in the killing just days after the arrest of Reuters journalists in December.

After their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were held incommunicado for two weeks, during which they were deprived of sleep and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation, according to the reporters and their lawyers.

“These convictions won’t hide the horrors against the Rohingya from the world,” said Adams.

“They merely reveal the precarious state of free speech in the country and the urgent need for international action to free these journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the ruling and reiterated its call for the immediate release of the reporters.

“The conviction of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone is a terrible blow to press freedom in Myanmar,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“As the justice system clearly followed orders in this case, we call on the country’s most senior officials, starting with government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to free these journalists, whose only crime was to do their job. After a farcical prosecution, this outrageous verdict clearly calls into question Myanmar’s transition to democracy,” he added.

Verdict on Myanmar’s Reuters journalists postponed

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A Myanmar court on Monday postponed the verdict on two Reuters journalists who documented a massacre of Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine state.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been detained since December for allegedly collecting secret documents from police as they investigated violence against Rohingya.

Yangon’s northern district judge Khin Maung Maung said Monday that the postponement was because the judge, Ye Lwin, was sick.

"The verdict will be announced on Sept. 3," he said.

800 journos in Saudi to cover Hajj pilgrimage: Minister

By Khalil Glick

MECCA (AA) – Saudi Arabia is currently hosting more than 800 foreign media personnel to cover this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, according to Saudi Information Minister Awad bin Saleh al-Awwad.

This year’s pilgrimage season is officially set to begin on Sunday evening.

Al-Awwad made the assertion while inspecting a series of information centers set up for pilgrims in the areas of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina.

According to the minister, preparations for this year’s pilgrimage are being covered by 151 media outlets from around the world in a multiplicity of languages.

At least 16 direct digital channels, he said, are also covering the preparations in six different languages around the clock.

Al-Awwad went on to note that his ministry had set up a number of media centers in Mecca — and at other holy sites — to facilitate coverage of pilgrimage-related activities.

Media personnel, he added, were being provided with all the technical services they require.

Last year, roughly 1.75 million Muslims visited Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj, while another 6.53 million came for the Umrah, the non-mandatory lesser pilgrimage.

The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is considered a religious obligation for Muslims, who are expected to make the journey — if financially feasible — at least once in their lives.

Unlike the Hajj pilgrimage, which this year will take place from Aug. 19 to 24, Muslims can perform the Umrah at any time.