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Foreign press clubs call for immediate release of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Three months ago, Myanmar police invited two Reuters reporters to a restaurant in northern Yangon. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men who were buried in a mass grave after being hacked to death or shot by ethnic Rakhine Buddhist villagers and soldiers.

Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski
Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

At the dinner, police handed the pair some documents. They were arrested almost immediately afterward and later charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

On the 100th day since the arrest of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, 10 foreign correspondents’ clubs throughout Asia are again calling for their immediate release. The two journalists were engaged in normal reporting activities, and had not committed any wrongdoing. All charges against them should be dropped.

“We are not doing anything wrong,” Kyaw Soe Oo told reporters after the pair were formally charged. “Please help us by uncovering the truth.”

Their trial is now underway, with a verdict possible in the coming weeks. The outcome will have repercussions for Myanmar and the entire region, where press freedom is increasingly under attack.

We call on Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian government to act to defend press freedom as the country undertakes its transition to democracy. It is vital that Myanmar respects the beneficial role of a free and independent media and ensures that journalists are able to work without threat of retaliation.

FCC Hong kong's president Florence de Changy (left) with Geoff Crothall from the Press Freedom Committee at the Myanmar consulate on March 21. The consulate had closed early but building management promised they would hand in the 3 volumes of signatures to the consulate when it opens again.
FCC Hong Kong’s president Florence de Changy (left) with Geoff Crothall from the Press Freedom Committee at the Myanmar consulate on March 21. The consulate had closed early but building management promised they would hand in the 3 volumes of signatures to the consulate when it opens again.

We also call on all those who believe in press freedom to keep up the pressure on authorities who want to silence journalists, in Myanmar and elsewhere around the globe. One easy place to start is by signing a petition for their release: goo.gl/1kPTwX

A delegation of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong walked to the Myanmar consulate on Wednesday, March 21 to hand over a petition with more than 42,000 signatures demanding the immediate release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

“We are not doing anything wrong,” Kyaw Soe Oo told reporters after the pair were formally charged. “Please help us by uncovering the truth.”

#FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo

Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China
Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand
Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club
National Press Club of Australia
Editorial Committee, The Society of Publishers in Asia
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia, New Delhi
The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia

Democracy Now reports on the story – watch from 5 minutes 20 seconds.




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