Opinion Lifestyle Sports Business CPEC Technology Viral Fake News Ramzan Myanmar releases two Reuters journalists following global outrage Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were mobbed by the media as they left Yangon’s notorious Insein prison after more than 16 months in detention World by Pakistan’s Associated Press Published on 7 May 2019 YANGON – Two Reuters journalists imprisoned for reporting.
Their arrests in December 2017 made them famous internationally and under Nobel laureate and civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi a sign of Myanmar’s deteriorating press freedoms.
Wa Lone, 33, thanked “around the world” people for advocating their release and vowed to return to work.
“To go to my newsroom I can’t wait,” he said. “I am a journalist and I will continue.” Stephen Adler, editor-in-chief of Reuters, said: “We are extremely pleased that our courageous reporters have been released in Myanmar.”
“They have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world since their arrests 511 days ago. They were released in an amnesty that included more than 6,000 inmates.
A spokesman for the government told reporters that members of the family had sent letters to Suu Kyi and Win Myint.
“Leaders have taken into account (the) country’s long-term interest,” Zaw Htay said.
Suu Kyi’s British advisor and confidant, Lord Ara Darzi, said it was “fitting” to release the pair a few days after World Press Freedom Day.
“The lesson is simple: dialog works even under the most challenging circumstances,” he told Yangon media.
As they walked out of prison, the two men waved and smiled wide.
The duo was convicted and sentenced to seven years each on charges of violating the official secrets act.
They reported on a September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims in conflict-hit Rakhine state, where the Myanmar army forced about 740,000 of the stateless minority to flee across the border to Bangladesh, when they were arrested.
The case triggered a worldwide outrage and crushed what remained of Suu Kyi’s legacy as a defender of rights.
We are very happy,‘ Reuters said the two had been jailed for their exposure in retaliation.
In a rare response to allegations of atrocities, the army imprisoned seven soldiers for the massacre.
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said the release had no comment except that the case was “compliant with the law.”
The duo missed numerous family milestones while inside, including the birth of the daughter of Wa Lone.
The news overjoyed their families.
“We’re very happy,” told AFP Chit Su Win, married to Kyaw Soe Oo. A reunion photo was widely shared on Twitter by both couples celebrating, smiling and holding each of their daughters.
The journalists were showered with numerous awards and honors in response to their work during their imprisonment.
They won the prestigious Pulitzer award last month.
Also on the cover of TIME magazine were Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as part of their year coverage with journalists targeted for reporting.
The case against them became a byword for the war on freedom of the press and prompted an international campaign that attracted the support of prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who said it was an “honor to represent” her clients on Tuesday.
Rights groups and legal experts say that irregularities have plagued the case of the prosecution.
During their trial, a whistleblowing police officer testified that his superior had ordered his team to trap reporters in a sting — the judge chose to ignore testimony.
The now-former officer Moe Yan Naing told AFP that the families were back together “delighted” and expressed interest in meeting the journalists if they wanted to.
Media advocates, the UN, and organizations for rights praised the release but slammed the original arrest and conviction.
“We congratulate Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on freeing themselves from unjust imprisonment and applaud their reunification with their families,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asian Director of Human Rights Watch, adding that they should never have been arrested first.
Suu Kyi led her party to victory in historic polls in 2015, ending decades of military-backed rule.
But Myanmar’s dreams of a new day were short-lived — the army launched a campaign in Rakhine state against the Rohingya, which was said to be genocide by UN investigators.
Myanmar denied the charges and said it was defending itself against militants from Rohingya, who in August 2017 attacked and killed police officers.