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Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to appeal seven-year sentence | Myanmar News

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Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the two Reuters news agency journalists jailed while reporting on last year’s Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, are set to appeal the decision on Monday.

The reporters were arrested in December 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in prison under the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act for what prosecutors said was the possession of classified material on security operations.

The duo – who have spent more than a year behind bars – pleaded not guilty, insisting that they had been framed by the police.

Reuters also disputed the charge and said they were set up after probing the massacre of 10 Rohingya during a military crackdown that forced hundreds of thousands of people belonging to the long-persecuted, mostly Muslim minority to flee their homes in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State for neighbouring Bangladesh.

The ruling in September by a Yangon district court sparked international outcry and widespread condemnation.

Media advocates say the convictions sent a chilling message about investigating sensitive issues in Myanmar as it emerges from decades of military rule.

But calls for the reporters’ release have fallen flat inside Myanmar, with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi saying in September that the jailing of the reporters had nothing to do with freedom of expression. She said they were not jailed because they were journalists.

Outside Myanmar, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been feted with a string of prestigious awards presented in their absence and hailed as heroes.

The two reporters were also jointly named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year this month, alongside other persecuted and slain journalists, as concerns grow for deteriorating press freedoms around the world.

The anniversary of their arrest on December 12 was marked by newsrooms publishing photos of their staff flashing two thumbs up, a defiant gesture Wa Lone made at court that became synonymous with the duo’s resilience.

“A year ago, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in a set-up by police, intended to interfere with their reporting on a massacre in Myanmar,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J Adler said in a statement on December 12.

“The fact that they remain in prison for a crime they did not commit calls into question Myanmar’s commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law.”

The trial was widely regarded as a sham and payback for uncovering the September 2017 massacre in Inn Din village.

One whistle-blowing police officer told the court his superior ordered a sting to entrap the reporters.

More than 720,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state to Bangladesh since the military’s crackdown last August, bringing accounts of rape, arson and mass killings.

UN investigators have said the evidence warrants charges of genocide against the country’s top generals, but the army maintains it was defending itself against Rohingya militants.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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