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I feel you! De Lima relates to plight of jailed journalists in Myanmar


Detained Senator Leila de Lima has joined calls for the immediate release of two journalists sent to jail for reporting an alleged massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar based on “secret documents.”

Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven-year imprisonment by a district court in Yangon for possessing secret documents which they used for their report on the massacres.

She said that “modern democracy gives the people the right to access information about their government and allows the media to report on the excesses of power and the abuses of the powerful.”

“I am in solidarity with civil society and political leaders everywhere who are making loud protests against the crackdown on media freedom and right to information in Myanmar,” De Lima said.

This was evidenced “by the sham trial and wrongful conviction of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo by a district court in Yangon,” she said in a statement.

The Reuters journalists allegedly violated the Official Secrets Act for reporting on a massacre of 10 Rohingya men by Myanmar security forces in Rakhine State.

They pleaded not guilty as they reportedly testified that they were simply framed up by police officers who insisted on meeting them and then handed them documents minutes before their arrest.

“The issue of the violent military campaign against the Rohingya in Rahkine State which the two journalists researched about is sensitive in Myanmar because of global condemnation of the military’s human rights abuses of Rohingya minority,” De Lima said.

De Lima earlier signed a joint statement of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights calling on the United Nations Security Council to bring the humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingya people in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In November 2017, De Lima opposed the Philippine government’s decision not to support the United Nations General Assembly committee draft resolution against Myanmar’s military campaign on Rohingya Muslims.

As then justuce secretary in May 2015, De Lima also proposed the Philippines, along with fellow ASEAN member-states, to send rescue ships to help the Rohingya Muslims or “boat people” still stranded in the seas and save their lives.

“The clampdown on press freedom in Myanmar resonates in the Philippines where the foreign and national media have also been under constant threat of repression,” she said.

“There are reports of Filipino and foreign journalists being harassed and threatened for documenting rights violations, and for making known their opinion about the abuses and misconduct of government officials,” she said.

Media killings are on the rise, the opposition senator said.

The senator from Bicol said press freedom and access to information should be “a concern of everyone in any parts of the world.”

“It is in the free flow of information that a citizen gets to know what his or her government is doing,” she said.

“It is through the courage of media that horrors and atrocities of unspeakable proportions, like those that surround the Rohingya ethnic cleansing, are exposed and brought under global scrutiny and action,” she said.

In a bid to provide insurance coverage and hazard pay to journalists and other media persons assigned to cover conflict or disaster areas, De Lima has filed Senate Bill No. 1860 which mandates additional insurance benefits for journalists, such as disability, health and hospitalization benefits.

De Lima was detained at the Phil. National Police Custodial Center in February 2017 on drug charges.