Two Reuters journalists who were jailed in Myanmar for reporting on the human rights violations against Rohingya muslims have been freed after more than 500 days in prison. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were released on Tuesday as part of an amnesty by the country’s President Win Myint, which has freed 6,520 prisoners since last month.
The journalists were charged in December 2017 under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act for allegedly “disseminating secret information sensitive to national security.” The two are believed to have been set up, as they were arrested after being invited to meet with police officers offering them information while they were working on an investigation into the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men. In April, while they were still jailed, the journalists won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for the story.
The release comes after Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were officially sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2018. Their imprisonment sparked criticism of Myanmar’s Nobel laureate civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She was pressured to intervene and free the journalists, but instead defended their detention. Sister Chan Khong, the eldest monastic at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village, wrote an open letter to Suu Kyi and Htin Kyaw calling for their release in December 2017.
As the two journalists left the prison on Tuesday, CNN reported, Wa Lone told reporters that he was excited to see his family and colleagues, and thanked supporters for calling for their release.
“I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he said.