Two journalists who worked tirelessly to expose a brutal regime of persecution against religious minorities at the hands of the Myanmar authorities have been released after 500 days behind bars.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were seen jubilantly walking free from Yangon’s Insein jail amid a frenzied crowd of reporters. The pair were jailed under Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act after reporting on the massacre of Rohingya civilians.
The duo was leading an extensive Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya men in the village of Inn Dinn when they were arrested.
Finally, after a protracted legal battle, the pair were released Tuesday as part of an amnesty of 6,520 prisoners ordered by President Win Myint.
“Inside in the prison and also around the world people were wishing to release us so I’d like to say thank you very much for everything,” Lone said upon leaving prison, according to CNN.
The reporter added that he was “really happy — excited — to see my family and colleagues,” noting that he “can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”
Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler piled praise upon the two journalists, calling them “symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world,” adding that he “welcomes their return” to the news organization.
The wife of Hollywood star George Clooney, Amal Clooney, who is a renowned international human rights lawyer, has been representing the pair.
“Since taking on this case over a year ago, I have witnessed incredible determination by Reuters, in particular editor-in-chief Steve Adler and Chief Counsel Gail Gove, in their pursuit of justice for their brave reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” Clooney said.
“It is inspiring to see a news organization so committed to the protection of innocent men and the profession of journalism,” she continued. “It has been an honor to represent Reuters and the two journalists in this case and I hope that their release signals a renewed commitment to press freedom in Myanmar.”
Christians are also being heavily targeted
While over 700,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee into neighboring Bangladesh to escape the violence, huge swathes of the Christian community have also been systematically forced out of the country by any means possible.
Last year, thousands of Jesus-followers were killed or driven out of their homes in the Northern Kachin state, with many calling the effort a “second genocidal effort” by the government’s military forces.
“I am convinced the Burmese government is trying to ethnically cleanse the Kachin people,” Lashi Ókawn Ja, a mother of four, told Sky News last year.
“Whenever they see Kachin people they try to kill us and they rape the women, even the women who are pregnant,” she added.
General Sumlut Gunmaw, vice president of the Kachin Independence Council, said that the government’s intentions for the Kachin Christians were exactly the same as for the Rohingya: total elimination.
“Maybe their actions against us are not so sudden as their violence against the Rohingya,” he said, “but their intentions are just the same. They want to eliminate us.”
Christian persecution watchdog, Open Doors USA, estimates that there are over 4 million Christians currently residing in the Buddhist-majority nation.
“More than 100,000 Christians live in IDP (internally displaced) camps, deprived of access to food and healthcare,” the organization notes on its website. “In some instances, Buddhist monks have invaded church properties and built Buddhist shrines on church premises.”
Do continue to pray for all those suffering from persecution across the globe.