The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) on Tuesday stated that the Myanmar authorities should respond to the calls for greater media freedom in the country.
SAMDEN said this while welcoming the release of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar after 17 months of imprisonment.
In a press communiqué, SAMDEN stated that the freeing of reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo has reflected the importance of the international campaign and mobilisation by media on the rights of journalists.
The two Reuters reporters won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting along with other colleagues of the news agency for their reporting on the Rohingya refugee crisis.
The two journalists were charged with breaking the country’s Official Secrets Act while working on an investigative report on the violence against Rohingya Muslims.
They were pardoned earlier on Tuesday as part of a general amnesty that freed thousands of prisoners. They had been in jail for over 500 days.
“We are extremely glad to hear of the release and hope that this acts as a spur for greater press freedom in Myanmar,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, SAMDEN co-convener and International Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
SAMDEN, anchored in CHRI, is a network of senior media practitioners from across South Asia which advocates, researches, organises and disseminates on issues of media freedom.
Those associated with SAMDEN include Kanak Dixit, founding editor of ‘Himal Southasian’ in Kathmandu; Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of ‘The Daily Star’ in Bangladesh; Salil Tripathi, author and chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, London, and Lucy Freeman, CEO of the Media Legal Defence Initiative in London.
The image of Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the de facto head of government, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was damaged due to the detention of the journalists.
Suu Kyi had also drawn widespread condemnation for her inaction over the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar following a military crackdown.