Two jailed in Myanmar Reuters’ journalists honoured with Pulitzer prize

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are currently in Insein Prison. Photo: EPA

NEW YORK, Apr 17, 2019, Myanmar Times. On Monday, the Pulitzer Center in New York handed its award for international reporting to news organisation Reuters, with a special mention for the two jailed journalists. The prize was given to the team from Reuters for “exposing military and Buddhist villagers responsible for the systematic removal and murder” of Muslims in northern Rakhine, reported the Myanmar Times.

The duo were arrested and detained on the outskirts of Yangon in December 2017, after meeting two police sources who handed them allegedly classified documents that included the disposition of government forces in northern Rakhine State.

Currently, they are serving a seven-year sentence in Insein Prison after being convicted of breaking the colonial-era Official Secrets Act in September 2018. The imprisonment led to an international backlash and doubts on the country’s judicial independence and media freedom.

The Democracy Index 2018 published by the Economist Intelligence Unit described the jailing as a “dampener” for the democratic transition. While the authorities have repeatedly claimed that the court verdict had nothing to do with their work, it is widely seen as a response to their coverage.

Yangon’s High Court in January rejected their appeal, but the Supreme Court agreed to rule on an appeal late last month.

Thomson Reuters CEO Jim Smith said the news service “won’t be truly celebrating until Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are free.”

“While it’s gratifying to be recognised for the work, public attention should be focused more on the people about whom we report than on us,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler said, adding that, in this case, they are the Muslim refugees from northern Rakhine and the Central American migrants.

The journalism awards recognise exceptional work in 2018 by US newspapers, magazines and online outlets. There are 14 categories for reporting, photography, criticism, commentary and cartoons.

Established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the first journalism prizes were awarded in 1917.

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