Myanmar releases Reuters journalists jailed for over 500 days for reporting on Rohingya crisis

By NL Team

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Two Reuters journalists who were jailed in Myanmar for reporting on the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims were released today after spending over 500 days in jail.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were arrested in December 2017 and convicted under the Official Secrets Act.

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler said: “We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return.”

The two journalists were sentenced in September 2018 after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, which is a violation of a colonial-era law. The duo denied the allegations and contended that they were framed by police. Their appeal in January to a lower court was rejected on the ground that their lawyers had failed to submit enough evidence to prove they were innocent. Myanmar’s Supreme Court had subsequently upheld their seven-year sentences in April this year.

Reuters reports that it’s customary for authorities in Myanmar to release prisoners during the time of their traditional new year on April 17.

Guardian published a statement from the office of the UN humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar: “The UN in Myanmar welcomes the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from prison. The UN in Myanmar considers the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo a step toward improving the freedom of the press and a sign of government’s commitment to Myanmar’s transition to democracy.”

According to Reuters, “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.” Their report received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May.