Asian journalist groups call for release of Myanmar journalists


Reuters' journalists Wa Lone (C, front) and Kyaw Soe Oo (C, back) are escorted by police as they leave the court after their first trial in Yangon, Myanmar, 10 January 2018. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA-EFE

Press associations in Asia and citizens concerned about threats to press freedom around the region are calling call for the immediate release of two Myanmar journalists employed by the Reuters news agency through a petition on Change.org.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were charged in court on January 10, 2018, for allegedly breaching the draconian Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. The families of the two men say they were handed documents by police officers who had invited them to a meeting.

According to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong and others, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are brave, principled and professional journalists who were working in the public interest and have been detained for simply doing their jobs.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China, The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, the Editorial Committee of The Society of Publishers in Asia and the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia believe the action against them is an outrageous attack on press freedom. 

Reporting is not a crime. The pair have committed no wrongdoing and all charges against them should be dropped, the petition on Change.org says.

“We call on Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian government to act to defend media freedom which is under serious assault 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 do their work without threat of retaliation,” the petition reads.

The petition had reached close to 1,000 signatures on January 19.

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