Speed Reads

Freedom of the press

Myanmar releases 2 Reuters journalists after 511 days in prison

Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo walked free from prison in Myanmar on Tuesday morning, apparently released after more than 500 days as part of a mass presidential amnesty tied to the country's traditional New Year, which began on April 17.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been reporting a story for Reuters about a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist civilians when they were arrested in December 2017 and charged under Myanmar's colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The charges were widely seen as the result of entrapment. They were sentenced to seven years in prison and lost their final appeal in April.

Their report won the pair the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in April, along with other accolades. "I'm really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues," Wa Lone said after walking through the gates of Insein Prison on the outskirts of Yangon. "I can't wait to go to my newsroom." Reuters editor in chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that the news agency is "enormously pleased" the reporters were released, adding: "Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return."

The two journalists were released to a Reuters representative and Lord Ara Darzi, a British surgeon who has formally advised the Myanmar government. In a statement, Darzi said the pair were granted a pardon after "months of dialogue" involving Myanmar's government, Reuters, the United Nations, and multiple other governments. "This outcome shows that dialogue works, even in the most difficult of circumstances," he said.

The violence against the Rohingya minority in western Rakhine State began in August 2017 and it sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.