Litmus test for press freedom! After 500 days, Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters freed from prison in Myanmar

News Bharati    08-May-2019



Yangon, May 8: Abduction or arrest of journalists is a frequently occurring phenomenon in the social spectrum. There is constant fighting between a free press and political agendas. The famous case from Myanmar, Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act marched free from prison on Tuesday after more than 500 days.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo has been imprisoned in September and convicted to 7 years in jail in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

They were free under a presidential pardon for 6,520 prisoners. President Win Myint has released 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.

On this case, Reuter stood with journalists. It 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, on the outskirts of Yangon, 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 people.

 

Before their arrest in December 2017, they 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 fleeings to Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates.

The report the two men wrote, featuring testimony from committers, witnesses, and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May, adding to a number of awards received by the pair for their journalism.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said the decision to release the two was made after the families wrote to government leader Aung San Suu Kyi. “We took the letters into consideration and released them in the interest of the country,” Zaw Htay said.

Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler welcomes the news. He 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”.

As per the statement of spokesperson, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed satisfaction over the release The United Nations in Myanmar said, it saw the release as a sign of the government’s commitment to the transition to democracy.