Two Reuters reporters — Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — were sentenced to seven years each with hard labor on Monday for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. The two men were arrested in December while working on a bombshell investigation that would eventually expose the massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in the northern Rakhine State village of Inn Din, during military operations that UN investigators have described as genocide.
The Myanmar government has insisted that the case has nothing to do with their reporting, but the questionable conviction has sparked international condemnation of Myanmar’s legal system and restrictions on press freedoms.
Speaking of restrictions on press freedoms, here comes Singapore. Some sad, rules-loving muppet decided for some reason that the local authorities should be alerted to a picture that featured Singapore-based Reuters journalists standing in solidarity with their convicted colleagues.
Our @Reuters colleagues Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in jail for exposing a massacre by the Myanmar military. We at APAC HQ in Singapore stand with them and call for their immediate release #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo pic.twitter.com/hbuazN6Aqm
— Aurindom Mukherjee (@AurindomM) September 4, 2018
The picture, posted to Twitter by Reuters Asia’s social media editor Aurindom Mukherjee, shows a team of Reuters journalists standing outside the publication’s Asia Pacific headquarters along 18 Science Park Drive. Signs with the words #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo were held up — something every Thomson Reuters bureau around the world has done to rally behind their jailed colleagues.
Here’s one from London:
All of us @Reuters stand with our colleagues Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were unjustly sentenced to seven years in prison in Myanmar for their work as journalists. Here, colleagues in our London newsroom show our support. #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo pic.twitter.com/u4Py56E2k7
— Simon Robinson (@iron_emu) September 4, 2018
Here’s one from Japan:
.@Reuters #Japan, some of us pictured here, stand with our #Myanmar colleagues Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo – sentenced Monday to 7 years in jail for reporting on a military massacre of #Rohingya people. Photo by @ToruHanai #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo #JournalismIsNotACrime @ReutersPR pic.twitter.com/PKT7hlnTFR
— William Mallard (@BillyMallard) September 4, 2018
Here’s a couple from China and Hong Kong:
All of us at @Reuters Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong stand with our colleagues Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in jail for exposing a massacre by the Myanmar military. We call for their immediate release. #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo pic.twitter.com/e3wrspPr81
— Reuters China (@ReutersChina) September 4, 2018
According to a report by The New Paper, the Singapore Police Force is aware of the picture and apparently treating it as a public assembly without a police permit. The report also made sure to remind readers that it’s illegal under the Public Order Act to organize or participate in a public assembly without police approval in Singapore and that offenders can be fined up to S$5,000, while repeat offenders can be fined a maximum of S$10,000 and jailed up to six months.
Almost unbelievably, if the police want to pursue this, they have legal means. Under Singaporean law it’s considered an offense if there are two or more people assembled for the purpose of (i) demonstrating support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government; (ii) publicizing a cause or campaign; or (iii) marking or commemorating any event.
Of course, in the case of Reuters, it’s literally just a photo-op, a team of journalists standing outside their office long enough to take a picture together to show solidarity for their jailed colleagues.
Speaking to TNP, however, it seems the police don’t see it that way. A police spokesman mentioned that the police would be “engaging” Reuters over the picture they took. Hell, the TNP report even called the act a “protest.”
The jarring response by the authorities (and gross overreaction of whoever tipped the cops off) are, predictably, being viewed with disdain by most who have found out about it.
ASEAN’s views on free expression summed up nicely. S’pore police tackling the big issues here. “Police are aware of an online movement #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo. She added that the police would engage Reuters over the picture.” https://t.co/J7u079L3C8
— Timothy McLaughlin (@TMclaughlin3) September 7, 2018
Singapore’s police need to get a sense of perspective. https://t.co/OPPdqMBpoE
— Marc Lourdes (@marclourdes) September 7, 2018
(waste of police time)
— Red Dot Oz (@RedDot_Oz) September 7, 2018
Are you freakin’ kidding me https://t.co/5vw9JLTmEP
— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) September 7, 2018
Mukherjee declined to comment on the issue, referring Coconuts to Reuters’s PR department, which did not reply.