Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been in prison since December 2017. They had been arrested for reporting on the attacks by local Buddhist mobs and the national militia against the Muslim Rohingya minority. As many as 720,000 Rohingya have fled the Rakhine state where they lived to Bangladesh, to escape this persecution.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were specifically working on a report about 10 Rohingya men who were killed in the village of Inn Dinn. Authorities accused them of having classified information. They had both been sentenced to seven years in prison.
The government of Myanmar has denied that the Rohingya are being targeted and dismissed accusations that its military has been involved. It has also targeted journalists who try to report on the situation.
The country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, had awards she had received from Amnesty International and the U.S. Holocaust Museum revoked after she refused to even acknowledge what was happening to the Rohingya. It was President Win Myint, not Suu Kyi, who pardoned these prisoners.
“Inside in the prison and also around the world people were wishing to release us so I’d like to say thank you very much for everything,” Wa Lone said, according to Reuters. He added that he was “really happy — excited — to see my family and colleagues. And I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”
Amal Clooney, lawyer and wife of actor George Clooney, had personally lobbied for their release.