Wa Lone, 33, and Kywan Soe Oo, 29, both award-winning journalists, have been released from a jail on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar in May after a sentence from the Official Secrets Agency in September 2017. The pair were released early, due to the amount of public protests and accusations about the country’s reason for the supposedly “unjust” sentence. They spent over 500 days in prison.
The pair was originally accused of “violating the country’s Official Secrets Act” and were sentenced to nine years in jail. However, their imprisonment was seen as an “assault on press freedom” and many started questioning Myanmar’s democracy.
As the pair departed from the prison, Wa Lone vowed to continue his reporting and said that he was excited to return to work at the international news agency.
“I am really happy and excited to see my family and colleagues again. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he told reporters.
Both journalists have families with young children. Wa Lone’s wife only discovered that she was pregnant days after her husband’s arrest. Wa Lone has only seen his daughter a few times on her visits to prison.
Reuters’ editor-in-chief said the reporters – who last month won the Pulitzer Prize for their work – had become “symbols” of press freedom.
“We are enormously pleased Myanmar has released our courageous reporters,” Stephen J Adler said.
The journalist’s case has been widely seen as a test of press freedom in Myanmar and the former political prisoner, Aung San Su Kyi, has been ridiculed for defending the jailing of both journalists.
Both men’s families are over – joyed to have them home and despite some of their fears about the pair continuing reporting, they told the BBC that they are never going to stop supporting their newly – returned family members.
More than 250 journalists are behind bars across the world, because of restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of press. Turkey, for the second year running, has been named the worst jailer with 68 journalists imprisoned. China came second with 47 while Egypt came third with 25.
It is the journalist’s role to tell the truth of what is happening to the world – and by exposing that truth, to hold power to account. But what if the risks of imprisonment (or worse) become too high?