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US concern over sentencing of Myanmar journalists

July 11, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States said Friday is it very concerned that four reporters and a magazine chief executive in Myanmar have been sentenced to 10 years hard labor for investigative reporting about a weapons factory.

The sentence sends the “wrong message” about Myanmar’s commitment to freedom of expression, State Department press officer Peter Velasco said. He urged Myanmar to respect the rights of all journalists.

The now-defunct Unity journal printed a story in January that the military had seized farmland in central Myanmar for the factory, allegedly built for the production of chemical weapons. The journal printed a denial by authorities.

Rights groups have condemned Thursday’s sentencing, and say intimidation and arrests of journalists appears to be worsening in the former pariah state, even as official censorship has been lifted.

President Barack Obama has highlighted U.S. support of Myanmar’s shift from decades of direct military rule as a signal achievement of his foreign policy, but there’s growing U.S. criticism, particularly from Congress, of the Southeast Asian nation’s reformist government, including its failure to protect minority Muslims from sectarian violence.

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