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Wives of convicted Reuters journalists demand their release

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's family and defence lawyer speak to media in Yangon on Tuesday 3 September. (Photo: DVB)

The wives of the two Reuters journalists jailed for seven years with hard labour called for their husbands to be immediately released, in a press conference on Tuesday evening in downtown Rangoon.

Pan Ei Mon and Chit Su Win insisted their husbands, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo respectively, are innocent. The reporters were found guilty on Monday under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, after judge Ye Lwin accused the pair of not protecting the country’s secrets and violating journalistic ethics.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were investigating a massacre in Inn Dinn, Rakhine State, at the time of their arrest. Security forces later admitted to the killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys, which were widely publicised before police detained them in December 2017.

Chit Su Win told media she had been confident her husband would be acquitted on Monday, and lashed out at State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for condemning her husband, referring to an interview the country’s de-facto leader gave to a Japanese broadcaster months before the verdict in which she described the pair has having broken the law.

Pan Ei Mon demanded their husbands’ convictions be overturned. She gave birth to their first child, a daughter, last month.

“I never thought such a harsh verdict would be handed down,” she said.

The defence team confirmed they will appeal the sentence within 60 days as required under Burmese law.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday called on the Burmese government to free the pair, tweeting, “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.”

Shortly after the ruling more than 80 organisations, including the Burmese Women’s Union, Tampadipa Institute,  Athan, and Burma Rivers Network, co-signed a letter calling for the ruling to be thrown out and protections for media strengthened.

“We call on the government, the military, and all other relevant authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, protect media freedom, and promote accountability,” the letter said.