Reuters journalists freed in Myanmar after 511 days behind bars

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 7, 2019 - Duration: 01:54s

Reuters journalists freed in Myanmar after 511 days behind bars

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars.

Michelle Hennessy reports.

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Reuters journalists freed in Myanmar after 511 days behind bars

Two Reuters journalists walked free from prison in Myanmar on Tuesday (May 7) after spending more than 500 days behind bars.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act in September - and sentenced to seven years in jail.

It's a case that sparked outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

And raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS JOURNALIST, WA LONE, SAYING: "I would like to say thank you very much for everything.

I'm really happy to get to see my family, my colleagues, and I really can't wait to go back to my newsroom." Reuters reporters cheered at their collegues' release as they watched live.

President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.

It's customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.

Calls to a spokesman for the Myanmar government were not immediately answered.

Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.

Editor-in-Chief Steven Adler released this statement after they walked free: (Soundbite) (English) REUTERS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, STEVEN ADLER, SAYING: "We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world.

We welcome their return." Before their arrest in December 2017 - the two journalists had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in Rakhine state.

The killings took place during an army crackdown that began in August 2017 - and according to UN estimates - it sent more than 730 thousand Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

The report Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo authored was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

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