Held ever since their arrest in a trap set by the police in December 2017, the two journalists were convicted of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, which dates back to the colonial era. They could file two other appeals before the supreme court, but their lawyer said they now preferred to pin their hopes on a presidential pardon.
“Myanmar’s president can restore a semblance of dignity to his country’s legal institutions by pardoning these two journalists,” said RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“They have already been held for 497 days on trumped-up charges. How can we still believe in a democratic transition in Myanmar when the justice system flouts press freedom in this way?”
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did some remarkable investigative reporting on a massacre of Rohingya civilians by soldiers in September 2017 in Inn Din, a village in the north of Rakhine state, which was widely seen as an act of genocide. Their arrest was regarded as a punishment orchestrated by the security forces. They were awarded the UNESCO Press Freedom Prize in recognition of their work.
The region where this act of ethnic cleansing took place, the traditional home of Myanmar’s Rohingya community, continues to be completely inaccessible to journalists aside from those who have been taken there on pathetic propaganda visits that are tightly controlled by the authorities.
Myanmar dropped down a place in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, resulting from the deterioration in “environment and self-censorship,” “transparency” and “media independence” – three of the seven indicators used to determine a country’s ranking. Myanmar is currently ranked 138th out of 180 countries