After 511 Days, Myanmar Frees Reuters Journalists

They reported on brutal Rohingya crackdown
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 7, 2019 12:25 AM CDT
After 511 Days, Myanmar Frees Reuters Journalists
Reuters reporter Wa Lone reacts as he is freed from Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, May 7, 2019.   (Ann Wang/Pool Photo via AP)

Two Reuters journalists who were imprisoned for breaking Myanmar's Official Secrets Act over reporting on security forces' abuses of Rohingya Muslims were pardoned and released Tuesday, the prison chief and witnesses said. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were freed after President Win Myint issued a blanket pardon for 6,520 prisoners, said Zaw Zaw, chief of Yangon's Insein Prison. Myanmar's Supreme Court on April 23 rejected the journalists' final appeal against their seven-year prison terms. The reporters and their supporters had said they were framed because of official displeasure over their reporting, the AP reports.

"We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters," said a statement issued by Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler. "Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return." Last month, the pair shared with their Reuters colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. The Reuters reporters had worked on an investigation of the killings of 10 Rohingya villagers during the brutal counterinsurgency campaign in Rakhine state in 2017 for which the government last year said seven soldiers were sentenced to up 10 years in prison with hard labor. The reporters were arrested in Dec. 2017 and sentenced last September after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, a violation of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. (More Myanmar stories.)

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