(Reuters) - More than 100 Myanmar activists marked the anniversary on Wednesday of the arrest of two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in jail in a landmark free speech case by releasing balloons at a rally in the country’s largest city Yangon.
Wa Lone، 32، and Kyaw Soe Oo، 28، were found guilty in September of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act، in a case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from human rights advocates.
Students، journalists and writers sporting t-shirts that read “Journalism is not a crime” and “Free Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo” lit candles and held a minute’s silence for the two reporters.
Some held copies of the latest cover of Time magazine featuring the journalists and their families after they were named among a group of reporters as the publication’s “Person of the Year”.
“A year ago، Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in a set-up by police، intended to interfere with their reporting on a massacre in Myanmar،” said Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler in a statement on Wednesday.
“The fact that they remain in prison for a crime they did not commit calls into question Myanmar’s commitment to democracy، freedom of expression and rule of law.”
The journalists have appealed against their conviction، citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime. An appeal hearing is scheduled for Dec. 24.
During eight months of hearings، Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on Dec. 12. Almost immediately afterwards، they said، they were bundled into a car by plainclothes officers.