Myanmar Journalists Handed 10 Years For Reporting On Weapons Factory

Myanmar military soldiers march in 2014 during the 69th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.Photo: EPA/LYNN BO BO

YANGON (DPA) — Five journalists in Myanmar were sentenced to 10 years in jail each Thursday, charged with disclosing state secrets for publishing a report on an alleged secret chemical weapons factory in the country's central region, lawyers said.

Four reporters and the chief executive of Unity Journal, a local weekly, were sentenced by a district court in Pakokku, in the country's central Magwe division.

"My clients are innocent," said the defendents' lawyer Aung Thein. "They received long jail terms simply for doing their work.

"The ruling means the government can do anything it wants to journalists."

The journalists were arrested in late January after running an article on the secret chemical weapons factory, which they claimed was "built by a former senior general, Chinese technicians and the current commander in chief."

The report alleged that the facility spanned 3,000 acres, housed rockets and was heavily guarded by uniformed troops. Police across the country seized copies of the January 25 edition.

In May, the New Light of Myanmar reported that journalists Lu Maw Naing, Sithu Soe, Aung Thura, The Yazar Oo and executive Tint San faced charges of "disclosing state secrets" as well as trespassing under Article 3(a) of the Official Secrets Act (1923).

In late June, Sala Baganza, a small town in northern Italy with a population of 5,500, awarded the five honorary citizenship.