US renews call on Myanmar to free Reuters reporters

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison under the draconian Official Secrets Act last year after probing a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state

The United States on Wednesday renewed its call on Myanmar to free two Reuters journalists jailed after reporting on the Rohingya crisis, voicing dismay at a fresh rejection of their appeal.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that Tuesday's Supreme Court decision sent "a profoundly negative signal about freedom of expression" in Myanmar.

"The United States is deeply concerned by recent arrests of reporters, political activists, civil society members and satirical performers in Burma," said Ortagus, using the former name of Myanmar.

"We urge Burma to protect hard-earned freedoms, prevent further backsliding on recent democratic gains and reunite these journalists with their families," she said in a statement.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced to seven years in jail over possessing classified documents.

Supporters believe the pair were punished for investigating a massacre of 10 members of the Rohingya minority, the target of a brutal military crackdown that has forced some 740,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

The story earned the team the Pulitzer Prize, one of the top honors in journalism.

Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a darling of the West while under house arrest for advocating democracy, has declined to intervene in the case.