More than 50 activists and supporters rallied at Maha Bandula Park Wednesday to mark the anniversary of two Reuters journalists were arrested one year ago and to call on the government to release them immediately.
Wearing T-shirt on “Journalism is not a crime” and “Free Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo”, activists lit candles and held a minute’s silence for the two jailed journalists. Some attendances also held the cover of the latest Time magazine to highlight the landmark case of attacking the freedom of press in Myanmar.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both sentenced for seven-years imprisonment for violating the country’s Official Secrets Act for reporting on the human rights crisis of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, were named among a group of reporters as the “Person of the Year” identifying “the Guardians and the War on Truth.” by Time Magazine last week.
“They deserve to be on the cover of Time, they also deserve to get the attention from all the important media,” said Moe Thway, the president of Generation Wave, a youth political party who attended the rally. Moe Thway described the case as “pure injustice” and a “national disgrace” for Myanmar.
“We don’t forget them, we are also with them,” said Ye Wai Phyo Aung, the founder of Athan which organized the rally. “We are against the government, we are against the military and we are against the judicial system, because the judicial system is unfair to them,” said Ye Wai Phyo Aung. “Now we request them to free them immediately.”
Founded in January 2018, Athan is a freedom of expression activist organization led by youth who keep an eyes on the current situation of freedom of expression in Myanmar and update a list of journalists who have been charged and jailed.
Many news agencies including BBC World Service and individual journalists showed their supports the two journalists or on Twitter with the hashtag #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo.
The Reuters Editor-in-Chief also made a statement. “The fact that they remain in prison for a crime they did not commit calls into question Myanmar's commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law," said Stephen J. Adler in a statement on December 12.
After spending one year in jail, the two journalists are set for an appeal hearing at the Insein District Court on 24 December, according to the rally’s organizer.