“I want to thank everyone who helped us in prison, and everyone around the world who called for our release. I can’t wait to get back to the news room now.”
Those are the words of Wa Lone as he left prison on May 7, 2019. He and his colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, both Reuters journalists, received a presidential pardon after serving over 500 days of a seven-year prison term.
The case is one of the most high-profile cases around the world and a rallying cry for press freedom and freedom of expression. There were numerous actors who helped contribute to their release, including Amnesty International.
While their freedom is cause for celebration, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should never have been detained in the first place. They had been investigating a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State against the Rohingya minority when police officers invited them to dinner on December 12, 2017. Upon arrival, the officers pushed documents into their hands. The two journalists were quickly arrested for “possessing important and secret documents related to Rakhine State and security forces (with the intent) to send them to a foreign news agency”.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo spent far too long in Yangon’s Insein Prison, enduring sleep deprivation, forcible kneeling for hours at a time and questionable fairness in trial proceedings. Amnesty International calls for their criminal records to be erased and welcomes their return to their professional activities.