Timeline in case against two Reuters Myanmar journalists

Yangon (AFP) –


Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were released from prison Tuesday after spending more than 16 months behind bars for investigating atrocities against Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar's army.

Their conviction for breaching the Official Secrets Act was condemned around the world as an assault on media freedom and shattered the image of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi's as a rights defender.

Here is a timeline of key events in the case.

The arrest

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo meet police for dinner at a Yangon restaurant on December 12 2017, and are handed a roll of documents.

They are arrested straight afterwards and held under the Official Secrets Act for possessing documents regarding a military crackdown in Rakhine state against Rohingya Muslims.

Their whereabouts are unknown for two weeks and they later tell the court they were hooded, deprived of sleep and interrogated.

The case

The pair are charged with possessing documents linked to security operations against Rohingya militants in Rakhine state, and of breaking a state secrets law.

Myanmar's military says it found 10 bodies in a grave at Inn Din in northern Rakhine state, epicentre of the crackdown against stateless Rohingya. Reuters had been investigating in the area.

In January 2018, Myanmar's army says security forces killed 10 Rohingya men at Inn Din, admitting for the first time extra-judicial killings by its forces against the Rohingya during the 2017 crackdown.

Seven soldiers are later charged and convicted for the massacre.

But the Reuters pair remain in custody.

In February, Reuters publishes its report into the Inn Din massacre and says the journalists were arrested for probing it.

The trial

The trial begins in July 2018, with prominent rights attorney Amal Clooney on the legal team representing the journalists.

Wa Lone, the first to testify, tells the court that he had followed standard reporting procedures and not broken any laws.

During the trial, Myanmar policeman Moe Yan Naing claims a superior ordered a sting to "get" Wa Lone by handing him papers. The prosecution tries to declare him a hostile witness, but the judge later says his testimony can stand.

In September, Myanmar court sentences both journalists to seven years jail each for violating the state secrets act.

An appeal by the pair is dismissed by a Yangon High Court judge in January 2019, and a further appeal by the Supreme Court is rejected in April.

Global outrage

The sentence and detention of the two journalists prompts global outrage, including from the United Nations. The pair are later awarded the UN's annual press freedom prize.

Suu Kyi is pilloried in September 2018 after breaking her long silence on the case only to defend the court decision.

"They were not jailed because they were journalists" but because "the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act", she says.

The one year anniversary of the jailing of the pair is marked by newsrooms across the world with reporters posing for photos flashing the "thumbs up" -- Wa Lone's signature greeting to media at the court.


Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are released from prison in a presidential amnesty.

The two are mobbed by media as they step out of the entrance to Yangon's notorious prison after spending more than 500 days inside.

Wa Lone thanks everyone from "around the world" for advocating for their release.

"I can't wait to go to my newsroom," he says. "I am a journalist and I am going to continue."