Wives of jailed Reuters reporters call for their release
Tuesday 4 September 2018
The wives of two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar for seven years insisted the men were innocent of official secrets charges and called for them to be released and reunited with their young families as soon as possible.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were investigating the killing of villagers from the Rohingya Muslim minority by security forces and civilians in Rakhine State when they were arrested in December. They had pleaded not guilty but were convicted on Monday in a case seen as a test of progress towards democracy in Myanmar.
The two reporters both have young daughters and have not seen their families outside of prison visits and court hearings since their arrest.
Kyaw Soe Oo has a three-year-old daughter, and Wa Lone’s wife, Pan Ei Mon, gave birth to their first child last month.
The wives, alongside Wa Lone’s brother, Thura Aung, and their defence lawyers, spoke to reporters at a news conference in Yangon on Tuesday.
The defence can appeal the conviction, and the lawyers told the news conference they were considering all options.
Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife, Chit Su Win, said she had expected the two reporters to be acquitted. “I believed that we would be able to go home together,” she said, adding that later she “almost went crazy”.
“They are innocent. They were doing their jobs as journalists,” Chit Su Win said. She said she feared their daughter, Moe Thin Wai Zan, would be traumatised by the ordeal.
Wa Lone’s wife, Pan Ei Mon, said she wanted the journalists to be released “as quickly as possible”.
“I never thought such a harsh verdict would be handed down,” she said.
“Since I became pregnant, I stayed strong on the hope that Wa Lone would be released. After yesterday’s verdict, if feels like my hopes have been destroyed.”
Pan Ei Mon said she was disappointed that Myanmar’s government leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, had appeared to speak against the reporters ahead of the verdict.
Suu Kyi told Japanese television station NHK in an interview in June that the reporters were not arrested for their reporting on Rakhine, but because they “broke the Official Secrets Act”.
“I am really sad about that...the person who we really admired for our whole lives misunderstood us like that,” Pan Ei Mon said.
Neither Suu Kyi nor her government’s main spokesman have commented publicly on the case since the reporters were convicted. ■