Jailed Reuters jour­nal­ists win UN press free­dom prize

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

The United Na­tions' cul­tural agency said 11 April that it had awarded its an­nual press free­dom prize to two Reuters re­porters jailed in Myan­mar over their re­port­ing on the killings of Ro­hingya Mus­lims in the coun­try.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been be­hind bars since De­cem­ber 2017, de­tained on claims of vi­o­lat­ing state se­crets.

"They were ar­rested be­cause they doc­u­mented a taboo topic re­gard­ing crimes com­mit­ted against Ro­hingyas," said Wo­j­ciech Tochman, a Pol­ish reporter who headed the jury for the UNESCO prize.

The Guillermo Cano prize, named for a Colom­bian jour­nal­ist gunned down in Bo­gota in 1986, will be awarded on May 2 at a cer­e­mony in Ethiopia on the eve of World Press Free­dom Day.

Rights groups have de­nounced the jail­ing of the two Myan­mar na­tion­als as an at­tempt to muz­zle crit­i­cism of the govern­ment's treat­ment of the Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity.

At the time of their ar­rest the re­porters were prob­ing the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing of 10 Ro­hingya men at Inn Din vil­lage in northern Rakhine state.

They were con­victed of pos­sess­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions in Rakhine, from where an es­ti­mated 740,000 Ro­hingya fled dur­ing an army-led crack­down the United Na­tions has de­scribed as "eth­nic cleans­ing".

They were sen­tenced to seven years in prison. In Fe­bru­ary, lawyers lodged an ap­peal with Myan­mar's Supreme Court.

"Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo symbolize their coun­try's emer­gence af­ter decades of iso­la­tion," be­gin­ning with land­mark elections in 2015 which ended decades of mil­i­tary rule, said Tochman.

Myan­mar's civil­ian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded a No­bel prize over her push for democ­racy, has re­fused to use her in­flu­ence to se­cure a par­don for the re­porters.

Reuters jour­nal­ists Wa Lone and Kyyaw Soe Oo. Photo: EPA

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