Myanmar frees Reuters journalists after World Press Freedom Day honors Friday

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Myanmar frees Reuters journalists after World Press Freedom Day honors Friday

 Thursday we wrote about the pall surrounding the top honors unveiled for two Reuters journalists at the World Press Freedom Day Conference in Ethiopia—they were jailed serving seven years in Myanmar for doing their jobs.

Tonight, just four days later, we got the news that worldwide pressure had freed them. They’ll get those awards in person soon after all because the press—and the people of the world—used their freedom of speech to demand justice.

The New York Times did a wonderful job of telling the story just minutes ago, and we’ll happily share it below with full credit.

It just shows what we preach every week—our First Amendment is only as strong as those who defend it in Americas and do the same work for the same rights in the rest of the world.

This case proved it, and the World Press Freedom Day Conference can now become a true World Press Freedom Celebration. Our headline question from last week now has a joyful answer—its time for a GALA!


 

BREAKING

Myanmar Releases Reuters Journalists Jailed for Reporting on Rohingya Crackdown

The Reuters reporters U Wa Lone, left, and U Kyaw Soe Oo, walking free from prison in Yangon, Myanmar, on Tuesday.CreditAnn Wang/Reuters

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By Russell Goldman , May 6, 2019

 HONG KONG — Two prizewinning journalists were released from prison in Yangon, Myanmar, on Tuesday after more than a year in detention for covering the country’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya minority group, the Reuters news agency reported.

The two reporters, U Wa Lone, 33, and U Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced in September to seven years in prison under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for receiving documents from a police officer.

The men, along with their Reuters colleagues, were awarded in April the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s most coveted and prestigious honors.

Their case had become an international cause célèbre, with journalists, human rights activists and world leaders calling for their release. Their arrest, like the ethnic conflict they were covering, was a turning point in the West’s perception of Myanmar’s de facto prime minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, who had long been seen as a force for democracy and tolerance.

The Reuters journalists U Wa Lone, center front, and U Kyaw Soe Oo, center back, were escorted by the police in Yangon, Myanmar, last year, after being charged with obtaining state secrets.CreditLynn Bo Bo/European Pressphoto Agency

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 Since her party took power three years ago, the number of journalists arrested in Myanmar has increased to 43, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.

In April, the two journalists lost their final appeal in Myanmar’s Supreme Court. After that decision, a lawyer for the men said their last chance at release was through petitioning the country’s president or legislature.

The men were released as part of a mass amnesty for thousands of prisoners by President Win Myint. Traditionally, the authorities issue pardons for prisoners across the country during the New Year, which began on April 17.

Their defense lawyers argued that the evidence in the case was planted by the police and that the rolled-up papers they were handed contained information that was already public. The reporters testified at trial that they were arrested so quickly that they never had a chance to look at the documents.

The Myanmar military began a campaign to repress a long-simmering Muslim insurgency in 2017 in the restive western state of Rakhine. In all, more than 700,000 members of the Rohingya minority group were driven from their homes and fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

The United Nations has said that Myanmar’s top generals should be investigated on charges of genocide.

John WylieComment