Two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar freed after over 500 days
Published on: May 07, 2019 07:39 (EAT)
Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars. The two reporters, Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail. The case raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates. Last week during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Ethiopia, the two journalists were awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month. It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17. Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release. Swamped by media and well-wishers as they walked through the gates of Insein Prison, a grinning Wa Lone gave a thumbs up and said he was grateful for the international efforts to secure their freedom. “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he said.
Kyaw Soe Oo smiled and waved to reporters. Before their arrest in December 2017, the two had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017. The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates. The report the two men authored, featuring testimony from perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May, adding to a number of accolades received by the pair for their journalism.