YANGON – Reuters journalists, Wa Lone (33) and Kyaw So Oo (29) were detained in Myanmar in December 2017. They were charged and eventually convicted of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act. They were sentenced to seven years in prison.
Today, the two men are free after spending more than 500 days in custody. They were released along with 6,518 others as part of an annual presidential amnesty program in conjunction with the government’s traditional New Year.
The two men were arrested for reporting on the alleged murders of Rohingya men and boys by security forces in the Rakhine State. They had actually been at the forefront of a crackdown that propelled an estimated 750,000 people to flee to Bangladesh as refugees.
Despite their time in prison and nearly unrelenting negotiations on their behalf, the two received a Pulitzer Prize for the article that initiated the actions that led to their arrest – an exposé on the beginning of a what had become a national tragedy with an international impact.
Following the publication of “How Myanmar forces burned, looted and killed in a remote village,” news agencies from around the globe began to cover the story. The report focused only on the summary execution of 10 fishermen, shopkeepers, students, and a teacher already in captivity near the village of Inn Din. The response clearly implicated the participation of Myanmar security forces, an emerging embarrassment in a world seemingly committed to advancing individual human rights.
A University of London law professor described the order for the military to clear Inn Din and other villages as “unequivocally the crime against humanity of forcible transfer.”
Pressure from the UN, Reuters, the U.S., and other countries seeking more details were met with skillfully tailored but ill-fitting responses.
“We have to verify.”
“We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials.”
“It is very difficult in the current situation.”
The world now realizes that security forces had begun a campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
As the two reporters were escorted out of Insein Prison, they were mobbed by well-wishers and other journalists along with their very-relieved families. Before being whisked away by Reuters staff members, Wa Lone declared that “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”
Missions Box News has been covering the Rohingya crisis for two years. All Missions Box reports on the crisis are available at this link
To read more news on Christian Persecution on Missions Box, go here.
- Voice of America, Myanmar Sets Reuters Reporters Free
- Reuters, Massacre in Myanmar
- Reuters, Two Reuters reporters freed in Myanmar after more than 500 days in jail
- Human Rights Watch, Rohingya Crisis