Sending Office: Honorable Mark Pocan
Protect Freedom of Press for Journalists Arrested In Myanmar Covering Rohingya Crisis
DEADLINE: COB TODAY January 19th
Cosigners: Reps. Crowley, Khanna, Lee, and Jayapal
Please join me in sending a letter to Secretary Tillerson urging him to continue working with Myanmar authorities to ensure the immediate release of two Reuters journalists who face up to 14 years in prison for simply reporting on the Rohingya crisis in
Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is being called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the UN.
There has been an erosion of the space for a free press in Myanmar, where journalists and other media workers face ongoing restrictions in connection with their work. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s arrest appears to be aimed at preventing them, as well as other
journalists, from independently reporting on the Rohingya crisis.
According to Amnesty International and reports from other credible sources, the events surrounding their arrests are questionable. Reports regarding the journalists’ treatment in prison have been deeply troubling, as neither journalist was allowed to contact
their families or lawyers for up to two weeks after their arrests on December 12th. After the charges were announced on January 10, more than/just under a month after their arrest, Mr. Wa Lone’s lawyer said he is suffering from back pain and a hernia, but
has received no medical treatment while in detention.
The next court hearing for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is on January 23, 2018. Please join me in urging Secretary Tillerson to continue working with his counterparts in Myanmar to secure the release of these journalists and ask for these unwarranted charges
to be dropped.
Member of Congress
The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
January X, 2018
Dear Secretary Tillerson,
We write to bring your urgent attention to the situation of two journalists who face up to 14 years in prison for their reporting on the devastating humanitarian crisis in the northern Rakhine state in Myanmar. On January 10th,
Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were formally charged with violating the country’s dated Official Secrets Act for their reporting on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The arrest of these journalists builds upon a disturbing
trend of restricting and prohibiting freedom of expression throughout the country. We urge you to continue your efforts to work with Myanmar authorities to immediately release these journalists and drop the charges against them.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were in Myanmar investigating the existence of a mass grave in Rakhine state, where the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim community is taking place. As a result of a military crackdown which began in August 2017, nearly
10,000 people have been killed, and around 650,000 Rohingya have fled the country. The journalists’ reporting is critical to providing evidence for investigations into these mass murders. According to Amnesty International and reports from other credible sources,
the events surrounding their arrests are questionable. Reports regarding the journalists’ treatment in prison have been deeply troubling, as neither journalist was allowed to contact his family or lawyer for up to two weeks after their arrests on December
12th. After the charges were announced on January 10th, nearly a month after their arrest, Mr. Wa Lone’s lawyer said he is suffering from back pain and a hernia, but has received no medical treatment while in detention.
Freedom of expression is under serious threat in Myanmar and the U.S. must continue to push Myanmar authorities to end the trend of intimidation, harassment, and detention of journalists. One of the main recommendations from a U.N. commission formed to address
the situation in Myanmar was to improve the freedom of journalists to observe and report on the situation in the Rakhine state. In order for Myanmar to become a successful democracy, authorities must demonstrate their ability to defend and protect the internationally
recognized right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.
Further, we strongly encourage the Trump Administration to continue the U.S.’s long history of embracing and protecting the freedom of the press. When a president denigrates journalists and their reporting as fake news, it gives license to other countries
to crack down on the freedom of press, which can include intimidating, jailing, and torturing members of the media. The U.S. must continue to serve as an example for other countries, rather than allow oppressive regimes to take a cue and act in the same style
The next court hearing for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is on January 23, 2018. We urge you to continue to reach out to your counterparts in Myanmar to ask that these unwarranted charges be dropped and the journalists released. I look forward to your response
on this important matter at your earliest convenience.
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0