Two Reuters journalists who were jailed in Myanmar for reporting on the Rohingya crisis have been freed after more than 500 days in prison. Their jailing was seen as an assault on press freedom and raised questions about Myanmar’s democracy.
Wa Lone, 33 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 were released after a presidential amnesty. They had been convicted under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in jail last September.
Wa Lone said that despite the prison term, he would never stop being a journalist, telling reporters that he is “excited to see my family and my colleagues”. His wife only discovered she was pregnant after her husband’s arrest. He has only seen his daughter a handful of times on her visits to prison.
Reuters’ Editor-in-Chief said the reporters – who last month won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for their reporting – had become “symbols” of press freedom. “We are enormously pleased Myanmar has released our courageous reporters,” Stephen J Adler said in a statement.
Their case was widely seen as a test of press freedom in Myanmar, and the country’s de facto leader Aung San Su Kyi – herself a former political prisoner – was criticised for defending the jailing of both journalists.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the thoughts of the UK were with the “brave” men, and that he is ready to support Burma “to improve the rule of law in the country”.
He added: “I strongly welcome the pardoning of the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. This is an important decision made by the civilian government in Burma and demonstrates their desire to redress a miscarriage of justice and uphold the rule of law.”