A small but vocal band of Burmese journalists and activists demanded the release of two jailed Reuters reporters, and the right to information, in a peaceful protest outside City Hall in Rangoon on Sunday afternoon.
While reciting chants slamming the verdict that sentenced Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone to seven-year terms in the country’s notorious Insein Prison, demonstrators held signs that read “the public’s right to information is our cause” and “publishing the news is not a crime.”
The Reuters pair were arrested in December during an investigation of the military-led massacre of 10 Rohingya men in northern Arakan State.
Until a last minute green-light was granted by state authorities, rally organisers were ready to face arrest for violating the law that bans demonstrations in 11 Rangoon townships.
Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists member Thar Lon Zaung Htet told Reuters on the sidelines of the protest that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were “just doing their job.”
“Losing press freedom means our democratic transition is going backwards,” he said.
Maung Saungka—himself a former political prisoner – donned a jacket similar to that worn by National League for Democracy members, and then a green army jacket, before beating gathered photographers with a copy of a state-run newspaper.
Protestors released black balloons with the images of the jailed reporters into the air at the conclusion of the rally – which lasted under an hour after rally organisers promised police they would finish within one hour.