NEW YORK—The U.S. House of Representatives adopted by vote of 394 to 1 House Resolution 1091 today, calling for the immediate release of 2018 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award recipients Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, journalists for Reuters who were doing their jobs reporting on atrocities committed by the Burmese military in 2017.  The resolution also condemns acts of genocide against the Rohingya, the minority Muslim community under siege by the national government.

The passing of this resolution, sponsored by Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), is an important step in continuing pressure on the government and military to release the two journalists and protect freedom of the press in Myanmar, PEN America said today, noting that Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa One were initially detained on December 12, 2017,  a year and a day ago.

“The Myanmar government’s repression of free speech and use of colonial-era laws to constrain a free press are inconsistent with democracy and the ideals that, for many years, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy party had championed with American support,” said Thomas O. Melia, Washington Director of PEN America.  “The trial proceedings against Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo confirmed clearly that they were framed for uncovering the true story behind the massacre of 10 Rohingya men. At this moment of rising threats against journalists around the world, this resolution is an important statement of solidarity with those under threat and alarm at the current trajectory in Myanmar.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested and charged with violating the rarely-invoked State Secrets Act while reporting on mass atrocities in Rakhine, are currently serving a sentence of seven years in prison with hard labor. In addition to the call for their release, House Resolution 1091 calls upon the government and military to provide immediate unimpeded access to Northern Rakhine to both humanitarian actors and journalists and to rescind any laws that interfere with a free press in Myanmar. The resolution also recognizes the acts in Rakhine as crimes against humanity and genocide.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org