It was a heartwarming sight—the video of two recently freed Reuters journalists reuniting with their families in Myanmar.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo spent more than 500 days in prison after being convicted under the Official Secrets Act in September last year. They were freed after a presidential amnesty.
The pair had been working on a story on the 2017 murder of 10 Rohingya men by the army in Inn Din village in northern Rakhine. They were arrested even before their story was published, when they were receiving some documents from policemen they were meeting for the first time, according to the BBC.
Later, a witness said the restaurant meeting was set up to entrap the journalists.
The report, published in collaboration with other reporters, later won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. Myanmar authorities launched their own probe and sent seven soldiers to prison for their involvement.
But the release was not a case of the government seeing the light on the issue of press freedom. The men were freed along with thousands of other prisoners as part of mass amnesties granted in Myanmar around this time of the year.
Nonetheless, Wa Lone, upon walking out of jail, said: “I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”
The mother of Kyaw Soe Oo, meanwhile, said she cannot ask her son to stop working as a journalist because he loves his job. “Whatever happens, I will support him to carry on,” she told BBC Burmese.
As they are committed journalists, the freed men are also young husbands and fathers who must balance concerns of personal safety and practical concerns with their zeal in doing their jobs. This is the case of numerous journalists around the world, especially those reporting on challenging environments where press freedom is not a given or is consistently challenged.
Championing press freedom is a choice one embraces with much difficulty and numerous tradeoffs. What is clear, however, is that the primary master has always been, and must always be, the truth. This is a declaration that is easy to make but extremely difficult to balance with pressing, day-to-day realities.
We celebrate those who consciously and consistently choose to carry on.