Myanmar activists call for the release of two Reuters journalists
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