Parliamentarians, diplomats and lawyers call for the release of jailed Reuters reporters

08 September 2018
Parliamentarians, diplomats and lawyers call for the release of jailed Reuters reporters
Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo (C) is escorted out of the Insein township court in Yangon on 03 September 2018. Photo: Thura/EPA

Thirty parliamentarians, former government ministers, diplomats and lawyers from around the world issued an open letter yesterday calling for the immediate release of the two Burmese Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, jailed earlier this week for seven years.

The letter also calls for the release of all remaining political prisoners in Burma, the reform or repeal of unjust legislation, and international action to end impunity for crimes against humanity in Burma, including the referral of a case to the International Criminal Court, following the release of the United Nations International Independent Fact-Finding Mission report last week.

Signatories to the letter include:

Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken

Former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell MP,

United States Congressman Chris Smith

Thailand’s former Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya

Canada’s former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Rushanara Ali MP

Former Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin

Founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Martin Lee

South Korea’s former Ambassador for Human Rights Jung-hoon Lee

Indian writer and activist John Dayal

Former United States Ambassador to Timor-Leste Grover Joseph Rees

Former chief prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic Sir Geoffrey Nice QC

Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas.

Two former Chief Justices of the Constitutional Court in Indonesia, Professor Mahfud MD and Professor Jimly Asshiddiqie

The letter was also signed by members of parliament from Sweden, Canada, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar.

They describe the imprisonment of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as “a grave miscarriage of justice which fundamentally undermines Burma’s fragile democratisation”. The reporters were, they argue, jailed simply for “doing their job of investigating and reporting atrocities committed by the military in Burma”. Freedom of the press, they continue, “is fundamental to democracy” and “the refusal to acknowledge the truth, the concerted efforts to hide the truth, and the imprisonment of two young men for reporting the truth are all indications that Burma is continuing in the ways of repression and lies favoured by past military regimes … No democracy can be built on such bloodshed and lies. It is Burma’s Generals, not its journalists, who should be on trial.”

Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader said: “We welcome this letter, which is signed by distinguished politicians, diplomats and lawyers from countries across Asia, Europe and North America, as a call for the immediate release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, along with all political prisoners in Burma, the reform or repeal of all unjust laws in Burma, and action to bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice and end impunity in Burma. We hope the Government of Burma, and the international community, listens to this appeal.”