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Champions of free speech: Journalists Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo

May 7, 2019

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are Burmese journalists who were imprisoned for more than 500 days for their reporting of a Rohingya massacre. They are two of Deutsche Welle's champions of free speech.

dw freedom Wa Lone Kyaw Soe Oo

Burmese Reuters correspondents Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained in December 2017. At the time of their arrest, they had been investigating the murder of ten Rohingya Muslim men and boys by police and soldiers in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. In September 2018, they were sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly breaking the Official Secrets Act, a law dating back to the colonial era. In January 2019, a Myanmar court rejected their appeal, calling the seven-year prison term "a suitable punishment". A further appeal to Myanmar's Supreme Court was rejected in April 2019. As part of a presidential amnesty, the two journalists were released in May 2019. 

Myanmar Entlassung in Freiheit der Reuters-Journalisten Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Wang

Stephen Adler, Reuters Editor-in-Chief stated that there is "compelling evidence of a police setup." The two were framed by the police who planted military documents on them and then arrested the duo for collecting state secrets. The court threw a policeman in jail when he confirmed the police setup. According to Reporters without Borders, "the prosecution case was based solely on this trumped-up evidence" planted by the police.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo "supported the establishment of truth in Rakhine, nothing else," said a spokesperson of the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.

Wa Lone missed the birth of his first child, a daughter. Kyaw Soe Oo also has a young daughter. The families have been reunited after the journalist's release. 

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are two of the journalists that have been named Person of the Year 2018 by Time Magazine. They have also been honored with the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting

You can read the special report written by Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on the massacre in Myanmar here