By Emily Walsh, Human Rights Defenders Campaigner, Amnesty International USA
If this article existed, it would tell you an important story about human rights violations that may have occurred last month. It would share the powerful testimony of survivors, and the resilience of those fighting for accountability. It would tell you who was responsible, and how you could help.
But this article does not exist: the people who might have written it have spent months locked away behind iron bars.
It can be difficult to comprehend the entire ecosystem that gets disrupted when someone is taken away, unjustly imprisoned. Even you — reading this now — are impacted without your knowledge.
This is especially the case when the people locked up are journalists and human rights defenders, like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are Burmese citizens and reporters for Reuters, as well as loving husbands, and dear friends to many. They were arrested in December while investigating atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya people.
They put their personal freedom on the line in order to peacefully document horrific human rights violations and ensure that the world knows what’s happening. For this reason, we call them human rights defenders as well as journalists.
Today marks their 141st day behind bars, and eight months to the day since the massacre they’re in prison for investigating.
They were held in secret for the first two weeks; their families, friends, and colleagues kept in devastating suspense for any information as to their whereabouts and wellbeing. We then learned that they’d been charged under the “Official Secrets Act”, a colonial-era law which could mean up to 14 years in prison — all for their peaceful journalism.
I don’t need to paint a picture for you to understand the impact of their imprisonment on their loved ones. Both of their wives are missing a partner, and Kyaw Soe Oo’s two-year-old daughter is missing her father.
But you — the reader of this post — are missing something too.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s investigative reporting might have uncovered more abuses, shining a light on the actions of a government that would prefer to operate in secret. That reporting might then make its way to news stories that you consume or scroll past every day.
While journalists like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo remain in prison, readers like you are robbed of important information about what’s happening in our world.
The free press plays a critical role in documenting and sharing the information that makes possible our work to ensure accountability for human rights violations. You can help make sure that these stories can be written.
Demand that Myanmar officials release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo today:
2) Call the embassy and ask for their release: 1–877–861–6751
3) Write a note of support that we will send to them in prison
4) Ask your member of Congress to speak out for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s freedom
5) Share this post to encourage others to take action! Use #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo and #Myanmar and tag @AmnestyUSA