May 7, 2019 / 3:45 AM / 17 days ago

Reactions to release of Reuters journalists from Myanmar prison

(Reuters) - Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo walked free from prison in Myanmar on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars on convictions for breaking the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo gesture as they walk free outside Insein prison after receiving a presidential pardon in Yangon, Myanmar, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Myat Thu Kyaw

Here are comments and reactions:

SPOKESMAN FOR UN SECRETARY GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES:

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was relieved to learn of the release of the Reuters reporters, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

STEVE ADLER, REUTERS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF:

“We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return.”

JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY:

“Having personally raised their case with (Myanmar leader) Aung San Suu Kyi in September, I am extremely grateful she has listened to me and many others and responded to a clear miscarriage of justice.

“In a world where media freedom is under attack, this is a rare glimmer of hope.”

LORD ARA DARZI, MEMBER OF MYANMAR ADVISORY GROUP:

“This outcome shows that dialogue works, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

“The power of dialogue must be turned towards securing a lasting peace in Rakhine State and the return of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, whose desperate plight continues.”

TUN KHIN, PRESIDENT OF BURMESE ROHINGYA ORGANISATION UK:

“The only people that should be locked up for the Rohingya genocide are those that committed it, not those that helped expose it.

“The Rohingya community stands with U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo today, just as we have every day of their unlawful imprisonment by this complicit Burmese regime.”

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:

“The case against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was a travesty of justice from start to finish and they should never have spent a day in prison.

“While all those who campaigned for their release welcome the government’s decision, the reality is the country retains a range of repressive laws used to detain journalists, activists and any perceived critic of the authorities.

“Until these laws are repealed, journalists and activists remain under a permanent threat of detention and arrest.”

SHAWN CRISPIN, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS:

“CPJ ... reiterates that Myanmar should never have charged and jailed them in the first place.

“May their release herald a new era of press freedom in Myanmar, where reporters no longer fear reprisal merely for doing their jobs.”

PHIL ROBERTSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:

“These courageous investigative journalists should have never been arrested, much less imprisoned, in the first place and their release is long overdue.

“Time to act on the problem that Myanmar’s faltering respect for media freedom indicates the dire situation facing human rights and democracy as the country moves toward national elections in 2020.”

DUTCH EMBASSY IN MYANMAR:

“We applaud the President and the government of Myanmar for having taken this positive step. It was the right thing to do.”

UNITED NATIONS IN MYANMAR:

“The UN in Myanmar welcomes the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from prison. The UN in Myanmar considers the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo a step toward improving the freedom of the press and a sign of government’s commitment to Myanmar’s transition to democracy.

“The UN stands ready to continue to support Myanmar in its complex transition process.”

AMAL CLOONEY, COUNSEL TO WA LONE, KYAW SOE OO AND REUTERS:

“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.

“It is inspiring to see a news organization so committed to the protection of innocent men and the profession of journalism.

“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.”

FILM STAR GEORGE CLOONEY, SPEAKING AT THE PREMIERE OF HIS SERIES ‘CATCH-22’ IN LOS ANGELES:

“I couldn’t be more proud of Reuters and how they stuck up for journalism in a way that is important and it’s a dangerous time.

“It’s a bad time, it’s a dangerous time to be a journalist. So to win one. I’m very proud of my wife and congratulations to everybody.”

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF PEN AMERICA:

“Although Myanmar has failed shamefully to redress the injustice of their trumped-up arrest and conviction on spurious evidence, we are relieved that their ordeal behind bars is over.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have proven their courage and fortitude, never once wavering in their claims of innocence.”

BAERBEL KOFLER, GERMANY’S COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:

“I am pleased that the two Reuters journalists were released after a presidential amnesty today. This is an important humanitarian gesture which I greatly welcome. Press freedom is key to the further democratization in #Myanmar.”

AUDREY AZOULAY, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF UNESCO, WHICH AWARDED ITS 2019 GUILLERMO CANO WORLD PRESS FREEDOM PRIZE TO BOTH MEN:

“It is a relief for them and their relatives, but also a positive step for freedom of the press....it is essential for the good functioning of our democracies that journalists are able to carry out their mission without fearing retaliation.

“Through their dedication and the courage they showed, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are an inspiration for all those who fight to defend the freedom of the press.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

“I’m really pleased to see that the two journalists who were being unjustly imprisoned in Myanmar have been released. Canada has long been pushing for their release. We will always stand up for press freedom.”

Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez

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