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Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

McCollum Urges Release of Reuters Journalists Imprisoned in Burma

February 26, 2018
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) spoke on the House Floor on Feb. 26 urging the immediate release of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been imprisoned in Burma. Video of Congresswoman McCollum's remarks is available here. Congresswoman McCollum's extended remarks are below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge the immediate release of two Reuters journalists — Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — who have been imprisoned Burma for their fearless reporting on the atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingya.

The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya has shocked the conscience of the world, in part because of the important public testimony gathered by these two journalists.

In December, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were invited to meet with police officers in Yangon, were handed documents by two police officers they had never met before, and then were immediately arrested for allegedly breaching Burma's Official Secrets Act, a little-used colonial era law on government secrecy.

The arrest of these journalists and the Burmese government's refusal to grant them bail is highly irregular. It seems obvious that the only purpose of their continued detention is to chill the independent media in Burma. I visited Burma and Bangladesh as part of a Congressional delegation in November, and it was clear to me that the urgent humanitarian crisis in the region needs more attention from the media and the public — not less.

Despite their ongoing detention, the two detained journalists agreed to Reuters publication this month of their special report detailing the role of the military and Rakhine Buddhists in these atrocities. I salute these journalists for their willingness to bravely support the truth despite the personal risks to them.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are both ethnic Buddhists who grew up in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state. Their work on the ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crisis has won a joint honorable mention from the Society of Publishers in Asia. Additionally, Wa Lone has written an acclaimed children’s book and co-founded a charity that promotes tolerance between different ethnic groups.

Government officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley have called for the journalists’ release. Top United Nations officials, as well as the leaders of many nations — including Canada and the United Kingdom — have also called for the release of these two journalists.

Mr. Speaker,

Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge the immediate release of two Reuters journalists — Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — who have been imprisoned Burma for their fearless reporting on the atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingya.

 

The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya has shocked the conscience of the world, in part because of the important public testimony gathered by these two journalists.

 

In December, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were invited to meet with police officers in Yangon, were handed documents by two police officers they had never met before, and then were immediately arrested for allegedly breaching Burma's Official Secrets Act, a little-used colonial era law on government secrecy.

 

The arrest of these journalists and the Burmese government's refusal to grant them bail is highly irregular. It seems obvious that the only purpose of their continued detention is to chill the independent media in Burma. I visited Burma and Bangladesh as part of a Congressional delegation in November, and it was clear to me that the urgent humanitarian crisis in the region needs more attention from the media and the public — not less.

 

Despite their ongoing detention, the two detained journalists agreed to Reuters publication this month of their special report detailing the role of the military and Rakhine Buddhists in these atrocities. I salute these journalists for their willingness to bravely support the truth despite the personal risks to them.

 

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are both ethnic Buddhists who grew up in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state. Their work on the ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crisis has won a joint honorable mention from the Society of Publishers in Asia. Additionally, Wa Lone has written an acclaimed children’s book and co-founded a charity that promotes tolerance between different ethnic groups.

 

Government officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley have called for the journalists’ release. Top United Nations officials, as well as the leaders of many nations — including Canada and the United Kingdom — have also called for the release of these two journalists.

 

Mr. Speaker, a free press is essential to a democratic society. I join the State Department and governments around the world urging Burma to release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo immediately and allow them to reunite with their families and resume their vital work.