Myan­mar ac­tivists call for the re­lease of two Reuters jour­nal­ists

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Kelly Ji­awen Le

More than 50 ac­tivists and sup­port­ers ral­lied at Maha Ban­dula Park in Yangon on 12 De­cem­ber to mark the an­niver­sary of two Reuters jour­nal­ists were ar­rested one year ago and to call on the govern­ment to re­lease them im­me­di­ately.

Wear­ing T-shirt on “Jour­nal­ism is not a crime” and “Free Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo”, ac­tivists lit can­dles and held a minute’s si­lence for the two jailed jour­nal­ists. Af­ter ad­dress­ing speeches, the ac­tivists re­leased black bal­loons to sym­bol­ized the jour­nal­ists im­pris­oned can be free like the bal­loons.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both sen­tenced for seven-years im­pris­on­ment for vi­o­lat­ing the coun­try’s Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act, which were widely re­garded as a re­tal­i­a­tion with their for re­port­ing on the hu­man rights cri­sis of Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Rakhine.

The Myan­mar coun­sel­lor Aung Suu Kyi re­sponded to the case in June dur­ing an in­ter­view with NHK said that the two Reuters jour­nal­ists weren’t ar­rested for cov­er­ing the Rakhine is­sue and they will go through the court pro­ceed­ings and let the ju­di­ciary make the de­ci­sion like ev­ery­body else.

Time Mag­a­zine named Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo among a group of reporters as the “Per­son of the Year” iden­ti­fy­ing “the Guardians and the War on Truth..” Some at­ten­dances in the an­niver­sary rally also held the cover of the lat­est Time mag­a­zine to high­light the land­mark case of at­tack­ing the free­dom of press in Myan­mar.

“They de­serve to be on the cover of Time, they also de­serve to get the at­ten­tion from all the im­por­tant me­dia,” said Moe Th­way, the pres­i­dent of Gen­er­a­tion Wave, a youth po­lit­i­cal party who at­tended the rally. Moe Th­way de­scribed the case as “pure in­jus­tice” and a “na­tional dis­grace” for Myan­mar.

“We don’t for­get them, we are also with them,” said Ye Wai Phyo Aung, the founder of Athan which or­ga­nized the rally. “We are against the govern­ment, we are against the mil­i­tary and we are against the ju­di­cial sys­tem, be­cause the ju­di­cial sys­tem is un­fair to them,” said Ye Wai Phyo Aung. “Now we re­quest them to free them im­me­di­ately.”

Founded in Jan­uary 2018, Athan is a free­dom of ex­pres­sion ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tion led by youth who keep an eyes on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of free­dom of ex­pres­sion in Myan­mar and up­date a list of jour­nal­ists who have been charged and jailed.

Many news agen­cies in­clud­ing BBC World Ser­vice and in­di­vid­ual jour­nal­ists showed their sup­ports to the two jour­nal­ists or on Twit­ter with the hash­tag #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo.

The Reuters Edi­tor-in-Chief also made a state­ment. “The fact that they re­main in prison for a crime they did not com­mit calls into ques­tion Myan­mar's com­mit­ment to democ­racy, free­dom of ex­pres­sion and rule of law," said Stephen J. Adler in a state­ment on De­cem­ber 12.

The Yangon Re­gion Court ac­cepted the ap­peal ap­pli­ca­tions of the two Reuters jour­nal­ists and the court hear­ing will take place on 24 De­cem­ber, said U Than Zaw Aung, the lawyer of the two jour­nal­ists.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion is to re­lease the two jour­nal­ists af­ter the ap­peal im­me­di­ately.”

Pro­tes­tors gather in Yangon on the one year an­niver­sary of the ar­rest of Reuters jour­nal­ists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, calling for their re­lease. Photo: Kelly Ji­awen Le for Mizzima

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