Published: Tue, May 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Reuters reporters jailed for more than 500 days freed from prison

Reuters reporters jailed for more than 500 days freed from prison

Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from prison on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars.

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo gesture as they walk free outside Insein prison after receiving a presidential pardon in Yangon, Myanmar, on May 7, 2019. "I can't wait to go to my newsroom", he said.

Myanmar's Supreme Court on April 23 rejected the final appeal of the two against their seven-year prison terms. The two were then driven away by Reuters colleagues. "It wouldn't need to take long", U Khin Maung Zaw said. The United Nations in Myanmar said it saw the release as a sign of the government's commitment to the transition to democracy.

It was unclear on Tuesday morning how many political prisoners would be freed.

Their release comes after months of sustained global pressure, including from the USA government, the United Nations and many others.

That same month, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo shared with their colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for global reporting, one of journalism's highest honors.

Reuters editor-in-chief Mr Stephen J Adler said, "We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo".

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Their imprisonment was widely condemned and called "damaging" to freedom of the press in the country. "We welcome their return".

Kyaw Soe Oo smiled and waved to reporters. They say that in late 2017, officers invited them to a secret meeting at a restaurant on the outskirts of Yangon and handed them documents.

The case was seen as a litmus test for press freedom and democratic rights in the Southeast Asian country.

"The UN in Myanmar welcomes the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from prison".

"But the crisis is not over for the literally dozens of other Burmese journalists and bloggers who are still facing baseless criminal charges for their reporting about the Tatmadaw or NLD [National League for Democracy] government officials", he said.

The pardon of the pair, by the Myanmar government, comes out of the blue after 16 months of mounting pressure from global governments, diplomats, human rights organisations and even religious figures, which up till this point had appeared to fall on deaf ears.

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