Dispatch from Crame No. 375: Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s statement on calling for the freedom of Reuters journalists in Myanmar


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Nothing is so fundamental in a democracy than the right of the people to access information about their government and the freedom of the media to report on the excesses of power and the abuses of the powerful. I cannot imagine a society being free without the guarantee of a free press.

I am in solidarity with civil society and political leaders everywhere who are making loud protests against the crackdown on media freedom and right to information in Myanmar, as evidenced by the sham trial and wrongful conviction of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo by a district court in Yangon. The two (2) Reuters reporters were found guilty under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya men by Myanmar security forces in Rakhine State. The two (2) were sentenced with imprisonment for 7 years.

I join the call from a great number of human rights groups, who are urging the Myanmar government, military and all other relevant authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, protect media freedom and promote accountability.” I likewise fully concur with what the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that the conviction “follows a legal process that clearly breached international standards… I call for their conviction to be quashed and for them to be released, along with all other journalists in detention for their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

The clampdown on press freedom in Myanmar resonates in the Philippines, where our media has also been under constant threat of repression. Media outfits like Rappler, ABS-CBN, and Philippine Daily Inquirer, have been subjects of severe attacks from President Duterte. There are reports of Filipino and foreign journalists being harassed and threatened for documenting rights violations, and for making known their opinion about the abuses and misconduct of government officials. Media killings are on the rise.

Press freedom and access to information should be a concern of everyone, everywhere. It is in the free flow of information that a citizen gets to know what his or her government is doing.

It is through the courage of media that horrors and atrocities of unspeakable proportions, like those that surround the Rohingya ethnic cleansing, and also the mass murders under the Duterte regime, are exposed and brought under global scrutiny and action.

Free Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo! Protect press freedom! ###

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