Journalists around the world are telling Burma: #JournalismIsNotACrime
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Journalists around the world are telling Burma: #JournalismIsNotACrime

**Asian Correspondent unequivocally condemns the verdict of the Burmese court in Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s case. As members of the Fourth Estate, it is our duty to report the truth and hold every member of society accountable for their actions. It should be reminded that there can be no silencing the press; in a world without borders, the plight of a single man (or in this case, two journalists) is all the catalyst needed to set off a global movement for justice.

IF Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the Tatmadaw were hoping the jailing of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo would silence criticism of their alleged complicity in the Rohingya crisis, they were proven quite wrong this week.

Journalists standing in solidarity with their Burmese colleagues have been making sure of that.

Since the duo was sentenced on Monday, media practitioners in newsrooms around the world have been flooding social media with messages demanding their release.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, both reporters with international newswire Reuters, were found guilty by a Burmese court for violating a law on state secrets in their investigation into the deaths of several Rohingya villagers. They were sentenced to seven years’ jail for the crime, a landmark case seen as a litmus test for Burma’s democracy under Suu Kyi, who took over from military rule in 2016.

Both men were nabbed in December last year, later claiming trial to accusations of being in possession of secret documents belonging to the government. During trial, they told the court the papers were handed to them by two police officials at a restaurant in Yangon, moments before they were arrested.

SEE ALSO: Burma: Journalists’ ‘hammer blow’ guilty verdict could spell end of democracy  

In numerous postings on Twitter, journalists posed for pictures holding up sheets of paper bearing the hashtags #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo and #Journalismisnotacrime. Some photos showed them in small groups while others in bigger offices featured dozens of reporters, photographers and editors.

“I have never felt more proud to work @Reuters than today, as colleagues across the globe stand in support of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, jailed in Burma for exposing a massacre.

“We are global, we are diverse, and we are united in our commitment to the truth,” wrote Jaso Subler, who is Reuters‘ Managing Editor, News Strategy and Operations, Asia.

Most of the postings on Twitter appeared to be of those from staff members of Reuters but several media practitioners from other publications and academicians chimed in on the conversation as well.

SEE ALSO: Facebook’s ‘humiliating’ ban worse than sanctions for Burma’s military 

“These heroes have been jailed in Myanmar just because they sought to tell the truth. Please share to show your support,” Matthew Tostevin, Reuters Bureau Chief for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, said on Twitter.

On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence called on the government to reverse a court ruling that imprisoned the two and urged it to release them immediately.

“Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo shd be commended—not imprisoned—for their work exposing human rights violations & mass killings. Freedom of religion & freedom of the press are essential to a strong democracy,” Pence wrote on Twitter.


Detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo leave Insein court after listening to the verdict in Yangon, Myanmar September 3, 2018. Source: Reuters/Stringer

Pence’s tweet came after the wives of two journalists insisted on the innocence of the two reporters, calling for them to be reunited with their families.

“Deeply troubled by the Burmese court ruling sentencing 2 @Reuters journalists to 7 years in jail for doing their job reporting on the atrocities being committed on the Rohingya people,” Pence wrote in another tweet.