No pardon for Pulitzer Prize winners Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo

Reuters journalist Wa Lone (C) speaks to journalists after court postponed verdict on August 27, 2018 in Yangon following months of trial since they were detained on December 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU

A New Year’s amnesty traditionally offered to thousands of prisoners across Myanmar raised hopes this week that Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo might be released after nearly 500 days in prison. That hope was in vain.

In a story marking today’s release of more than 9,000 prisoners, Reuters confirmed that the two journalists, who yesterday became Pulitzer Prize winners for their part in coverage of the Rohingya crisis, were not among those granted freedom.

The duo was 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 a devastating exposé on the massacre of 10 unarmed men by Myanmar military forces 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 8 months old.

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