PEN Amer­ica hon­ours im­pris­oned Myan­mar jour­nal­ists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo

Myan­mar jour­nal­ists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

PEN Amer­ica an­nounced Fe­bru­ary 13 that it would hon­our im­pris­oned Myan­mar re­porters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were ar­rested on De­cem­ber 12, 2017, while in­ves­ti­gat­ing vi­o­lence in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state, with the 2018 PEN/ Bar­bey Free­dom to Write Award.

Since 1987, PEN Amer­ica has honored more than 50 in­di­vid­ual writ­ers world­wide with the Free­dom to Write Award, rec­og­niz­ing their strug­gle in the face of ad­ver­sity for the right to free ex­pres­sion. Of the 42 writ­ers who were im­pris­oned at the time of an­nounc­ing the award, 37 have been freed, due in part to the at­ten­tion and pres­sure the award gen­er­ates.

“By sim­ply do­ing their jobs, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo demon­strated ex­cep­tional courage, know­ing full well the risks they were tak­ing in pur­su­ing this story. Yet they con­tin­ued in their dogged and deeply im­por­tant in­ves­tiand gation. They demon­strate the im­por­tance of free ex­pres­sion in ex­pos­ing abuses and shin­ing a light on the truth. Hav­ing honored im­pris­oned writ­ers dur­ing the time of the junta, we at PEN Amer­ica were hope­ful that civil­ian rule and demo­cratic elec­tions would mark an end to the jail­ing of jour­nal­ists in Myan­mar,” said PEN Amer­ica Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Suzanne Nos­sel. “We have come to re­al­ize that we cel­e­brated too soon. The un­just pros­e­cu­tion of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is a jar­ring re­minder that the fight for free ex­pres­sion in Myan­mar re­mains in­com­plete and ur­gent. We are proud to honor th­ese in­trepid re­porters and hope the Award sounds a pow­er­ful sig­nal that global con­cern for hu­man rights in Myan­mar will not let up.”

If con­victed un­der the colo­nial-era Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act, the jour­nal­ists face up to 14 years in prison. Both jour­nal­ists are cur­rently be­ing held at In­sein Prison in Yan­gon, an in­sti­tu­tion no­to­ri­ous for its use of tor­ture the cal­cu­lated mis­treat­ment of its pris­on­ers. Ear­lier this month, Reuters pub­lished an in­ves­tiga­tive re­port on a mas­sacre of civil­ians at Inn Din vil­lage in Rakhine State, which Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were de­vel­op­ing at the time of their ar­rest.

In its 2015 re­port, Un­fin­ished Free­dom: A Blue­print for the Fu­ture of Free Ex­pres­sion in Myan­mar, PEN Amer­ica de­tails the fraught land­scape for free ex­pres­sion in Myan­mar, in par­tic­u­lar for me­dia free­dom, in the years fol­low­ing the end of the mil­i­tary junta’s rule.

The PEN/Bar­bey Free­dom to Write Award will be con­ferred on Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo at the 2018 PEN Amer­ica Lit­er­ary Gala on May 22. The gala will also honor leg­endary nov­el­ist Stephen King with the Lit­er­ary Ser­vice Award and Si­mon & Schus­ter CEO Car­olyn Reidy for ex­cel­lence in pub­lish­ing.

Screen­shot from PEN Amer­ica.

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