Reuters Journalists Covering Rohingya Crisis Freed by Myanmar
Last updated on May 8th, 2019
In the wake of Rohingya crisis, Myanmar’s president Win Myint granted pardon to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on Tuesday. Both the imprisoned Reuters journalists had spent more than 500 days in jail, as their case drew global attention on media freedom issue, denoting the halting democratic reforms in Myanmar.
The Rohingya crisis largely divided the country and the international community, which resulted in mass migration of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh and many other countries where their situations worsened.
Lone and Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison with the charge of breaking the country’s Official Secrets Act in December 2017. The journalists and their lawyers asserted that they were only doing their jobs and had not intended to share secrets of the country. They covered the Rohingya crisis, investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers by Burmese army. The victims included eight men and two high school students in their late teens.
The description by the journalists suggested that the police lured them for a meeting and later arrested them. The news provoked the press and the people of Myanmar stood in their support. In the past, the relatives of both the Reuters journalists had repeatedly appealed to the Myanmar government for their pardons. They alleged that the two were being framed in retaliation for their reporting, but their appeal was rejected by Myanmar’s highest court in April.
Nevertheless, Tuesday’s news appeared as a sigh of relief for the press and the people. As a part of an official pardon granted to 6520 prisoners, Zaw Zaw, the chief of Yangon’s “Insein prison”, confirmed the journalists’ release. Upon their exit media and people, wanting to know their opinions, crowded them.
Stephen J. Adler, editor in chief of the Reuters said, “We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. We welcome their return.”
Following his release, Wa Lone thanked his supporters and said, “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues…I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”
Despite the arrest, the pair’s coverage on Rohingya crisis led to the Reuter’s winning of the “Pulitzer Prize for international reporting”, also known as the highest honour in journalism, in April.
The pair’s release amidst the Rohingya crisis led to a wave of contentment amongst the people and organisations around the world, who congratulated them on their return. President Myint’s pardon represented the fact that a dialogue works best even in the most difficult circumstances. However, it is still uncertain whether the people of Myanmar will also be able to enjoy their freedom of expression.
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