Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars, witnesses said.
The two reporters, Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail, in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month. It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.
Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.
The two journalists who covered human rights violations in Myanmar were sentenced about eight months ago to seven years in jail, an act which press freedom advocates have condemned as a sign of democratic “backsliding” in the country.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — who were arrested in December after authoring an investigative report into mass killings of Rohingya at the hands of soldiers and Buddhists in Rhakine State — were found guilty of breaching an official secrets act.
Both journalists pleaded not guilty and told the court that police officials planted confidential documents on them before their arrest.