U.N. welcomes Reuters journalists’ release, but warns on situation of freedom of expression

Marje Pelayo   •   May 7, 2019   •   1128

The release of the two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act is “good news” but the situation of freedom of expression in the country is still dire, U.N. warns on Tuesday (May 7).

“In our report that we put out in September last year we had put forth a lot of very constructive recommendations to the government of Myanmar to improve the state of freedom of expression in the country. No positive progress has been observed in relation to the recommendations that we had made to them.” Said United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Spokeswomen Ravina Shamdasani.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 walked free from prison on Tuesday (May 7) after more than 500 days behind bars.

They had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners when President Win Myint pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.

Before their arrest in December 2017, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.

The report that the two men authored, featuring testimonies from perpetrators, witnesses, and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May. (REUTERS)

Myanmar insurgency kills 15, destroys bridge on China trading route

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

Courtesy: Kaung Zaw Hein

Insurgents in Myanmar killed at least 15 people on Thursday (August 15) and partially destroyed a bridge along a major highway in attacks marking a major escalation in a decades-old ethnic conflict in the country’s northern region.

Video obtained by Reuters shows dead bodies lying on the road in Naung Cho township as soldiers tend to them, as well as debris across a bridge on the road to Lashio, the largest town in Shan state on the Myanmar-China trade route.

The Northern Alliance – a collection of armed groups in the region – claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also hit the Defence Services Technological Academy, an elite military college in Shan state.

The attacks were in response to recent army action in ethnic areas, said a spokesman for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

A months-long ceasefire agreement that ended in June was recently extended until August 31. (REUTERS)

(Production: Yi Shu Ng, Naing Oo Zaw)

Newly freed from prison in Myanmar, two Reuters journalists accept their Pulitzer Prize

Robie de Guzman   •   May 30, 2019

Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo accepting Pulitzer Prize | Courtesy: Image grabbed from Reuters video

Reuters journalists Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo and their colleagues accepted their Pulitzer Prize in the International Reporting category in New York on Tuesday (May 28).

Earlier this month, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were released from prison in Myanmar after serving more than 500 days behind bars. The men were arrested in the course of their reporting on a massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Inn Din and were sentenced to seven years in a Yangon prison.

Three weeks ago, they were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners.

“I would like to recognize our fellow journalists around the world who risk their lives and their freedom everyday to report the news,” said Wa Lone while accepting the prestigious award.

The team was recognized as co-winners, alongside the Associated Press, in the International Reporting category.

Reuters photography staff was recognized in the Breaking News Photography category, for their photos of the mass migration of Central and South Americans towards the U.S. border, and its aftermath. (REUTERS)

Int’l journalists hit Duterte admin for Maria Ressa’s arrest

Marje Pelayo   •   February 14, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration is hit by international journalists and personalities for the recent arrest of online news website Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa due to cyber libel.

Several comments on social media slammed the administration for what they believe is “suppression” of Ressa’s freedom of expression.

CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amnpour called the arrest a “desperate move” by the government.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist, condemned the arrest and said she is “deeply troubled” by the report.

The director of the Global Press Freedom of Expression and United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, meanwhile, expressed support for Ressa.

Other press freedom advocates also expressed dismay over what they claim as unjust treatment to the Ressa of the Duterte government.

“We call on Filipino authorities to immediately release Ressa. Drop this spurious cyberlibel charge and cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler,” said the international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalist.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo accused the administration of “political harassment” in an attempt to curtail press freedom.

“Isa na namang yugto na nagpapakita sa atin kung gaano iniipit iyong mga naglalakas-loob na makapagsalita laban sa mga polisiya ng administrasyong ito. Napakalaking dagok sa press freedom. Napakalaking warning na ibinibigay to anyone na magkakaroon ng lakas ng loob na magpahayag ng kanilang saloobin, ay napaparusahan,” Robredo said.

For its part, the Palace maintained that Ressa’s case should not be linked to press freedom.

“Ms. Ressa being a media practitioner and a high ranking officer of a media outfit critical of the President’s programs and policies has nothing to do with the present circumstances she is currently in,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Panelo said the Executive branch respects the decision of the judiciary and it has no reason to meddle with the court’s ruling on Ressa’s case.

Panelo stressed that no one is above the law and any citizen should abide by the Constitution regardless of their status or position. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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