Myanmar to release thousands of prisoners as part of amnesty

2 Pulitzer Winning Reuters Reporters Freed After 500 Days In Myanmar Jail

Myanmar frees Reuters journalists jailed for reporting on Rohingya crisis

Convicted of breaking Myanmar's Official Secrets Act, Reuters journalists Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had spent more than 500 days in jail when they were freed on Tuesday.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were convicted past year of breaking Myanmar's Official Secrets Act while reporting on security forces' abuses of Rohingya Muslims.

Pulitzer-winning journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were released as part of a prisoner amnesty announced by Myanmar's President.

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that the news agency is "enormously pleased" that they have been released.

The report was accompanied by pictures of the 10 men - including two high school students of ages 17 and 18 - kneeling in a row in a field ahead of their execution.

The reporters said they were entrapped, a claim backed by the testimony of police captain Moe Yan Naing, who testified last month that a senior officer had ordered him and other subordinates to offer secret documents to Wa Lone as bait, reports Efe news.

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The investigation led to seven soldiers being sentenced to 10 years in prison, the only case of abuse acknowledged by Myanmar authorities.

Both men have families with young children.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was relieved to learn of the release, a spokesman said.

"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 courageous reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo".

The U.N. human rights office in Geneva welcomed their release but said they never should have been arrested. "I want to thank our friends and families who were trying for our freedom and also to those from all over the world who sympathised with us".

The report the two men authored, featuring testimony from perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for global reporting in May, adding to a number of accolades received by the pair for their journalism. Two weeks ago, the journalists lost their appeal before Myanmar's Supreme Court, exhausting their avenues for legal appeals.

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The two were arrested in December 2017 outside a restaurant in Yangon.

Their jailing drew condemnation as an assault on freedom of the press.

"Press freedom is key to the further democratization in #Myanmar". "We welcome their return", he said.

"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", it said.

Security forces have been accused of committing mass atrocities during the large-scale campaign, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement and arson - allegations Myanmar's government has repeatedly denied.

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