After more than 500 days in prison, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are going home.
The two Reuters journalists, convicted of breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act in the course of uncovering a massacre of 10 unarmed Rohingya men by government troops, walked free from Yangon’s Insein Prison within the past hour, according to the international news outlet.
The duo’s release, which follows intense international pressure on the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, came amid a broader pardon of some 6,500 prisoners today. Just three weeks ago, hopes for the duo’s release were dashed when they were not among the more than 9,000 prisoners released in a traditional New Year’s amnesty.
That news came just a day after the duo earned the Pulitzer Prize for their part in Reuters’ coverage of the Rohingya crisis.
Speaking with reporters following his release, Wa Lone, 33, thanked people from “around the world” for advocating for their release and vowed he would return to work.
“I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he said. “I am a journalist and I am going to continue.”
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 and later convicted of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, a charge stemming from a sting operation in which they believed they were meeting with a whistleblower. Their work formed the backbone of the devastating exposé on the massacre, which occurred on Sept. 2, 2017.
During their trial, then-Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, himself present at the massacre, testified that the operation had been entrapment. He was subsequently fired and sentenced to an indeterminate stay in prison. He was finally released in February after nine months behind bars.
Since their jailing, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have received numerous awards, including the prestigious George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting, and being named co-persons of the year by Time magazine along with Rappler editor Maria Ressa, murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the staff of Maryland newspaper the Capital Gazette.
In August of last year, Wa Lone missed the birth of his daughter and first child Thet Htar Angel. She’s now 9 months old.
Additional reporting by AFP.