NEW YORK—PEN America today expressed its appreciation to eleven United States Senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), for introducing a Senate Resolution calling for “the immediate release of unjustly imprisoned Myanmar journalists all charges against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and expressing concern over the overall deterioration in freedom of the press in Myanmar.”

The resolution also “reaffirms the central role that professional journalism plays in strengthening democratic governance, upholding the rule of law, mitigating conflict, and informing public opinion around the world” and further “urges the Secretary of State to make a determination whether the actions by the Myanmar military constitute crimes again humanity or genocide…”

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are journalists who specialize in politically sensitive subjects. They are the recipients of the 2018 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, given annually to writers imprisoned unjustly for their work.  When arrested in December 2017, they were on assignment by Reuters investigating the torching and pillage of Inn Din, a village in Rakhine state, including the execution of 10 Muslim Rohingya men accused by the military of participating in political unrest. Their reporting contributed to an early February Reuters exposé on Inn Din, including vivid photographic evidence and numerous eyewitness accounts documenting the alleged atrocities. Myanmar military officials admitted to the killings on January 10 and have said that they are investigating the circumstances. Nonetheless, on September 3, 2018, the court in Yangon northern district sentenced them each to seven years in prison with hard labor.

“This is an important action by eleven senior members of the United States Senate,” said Thomas O. Melia, Washington Director of PEN America.  “The resolution contains a detailed review of the sham of a judicial process that has imprisoned these journalists for doing what journalists do—telling the truth. As Myanmar slips deeper into international opprobrium for the violence being done to the Rohingya and other minorities by the government, the world is calling on State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, de facto ruler of Myanmar, to correct this travesty.”

PEN America calls on its many members and friends to express appreciation to Senators Merkley and Rubio and the following cosponsors of the Resolution: Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), James Lankford (R-OK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

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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