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SPJ celebrates release of Reuters reporters, remains concerned about hundreds of journalists still imprisoned


J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, 212-283-0843, atarquinio@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists applauds the release of the two Reuters journalists unjustly imprisoned for more than 500 days by Myanmar.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were released as part of an annual mass presidential amnesty of prisoners. The Reuters reporters were arrested in December 2017 after reporting on a massacre of Rohingya, who belong to a Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. Their case had become an international cause, resonating especially among press freedom groups.

Earlier this year, the pair of Reuters reporters were listed among Time Magazine’s People of the Year, The Guardians and the War on Truth, and received a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for the Reuters special report Massacre in Myanmar. They have received several other awards including the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and the SPJ's Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting.

“We are relieved that after 511 days of wrongful imprisonment for their courageous reporting, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are finally reunited with their families,” said SPJ National President J. Alex Tarquinio.

“Although SPJ celebrates the hard-won freedom of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, we note that these two reporters are among many who have been unjustly imprisoned in recent years amid a rising global wave of anti-press sentiment promulgated by populist political leaders,” Tarquinio added.

As of 2018, there were 250 journalists imprisoned around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontières puts the figure at 348, to include 179 professional journalists, 150 non-professionals, often those writing about news online, and 19 media workers. It found the biggest jailers of journalists were China, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The situation has become more dismal within the United States. According to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which SPJ is a partner, 35 journalists have been arrested while covering protests since 2017.

“We call upon the governments of the world that persist in detaining reporters for their work to learn from the positive wave of emotion that has greeted the Burmese decision to release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and set their jailed journalists free,” Tarquinio said.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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