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IOHR open letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi calling for the release of the Reuters journalists

26 September 2018


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
State Counsellor
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of the President’s Office
of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
State Counsellor Office No 8
Naypyitaw, Myanmar

London, 27th September 2018

Dear State Counsellor,

A free press is the core of any democratic nation.
For so many years you used freedom of speech as a value that echoes your voice–calling for democracy in the Union of Myanmar.

Your eloquence and actions embodied the essence of freedom of expression while seeking to deliver results even within the bounds of compromise.

You have sought to change and transform outdated politics and law within your country to enable it to evolve into a modern state, released from military rule.

It is therefore shocking that you have not acknowledged that there has been a miscarriage of justice against the two Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who have been recently sentenced to seven years in prison on baseless charges.

Instead, you seek to hide behind the Official Secrets Act to justify your lack of defence of freedom of expression.

In Hanoi on 13 September you stated that you “wonder whether very many people have actually read the summary of the judgement which had nothing to do with freedom of expression at all, it had to do with an Official Secrets Act,”

The Act states:

If any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State (c) obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy;

This is an antiquated law from 1923 when Burma was under British rule. The UK government replaced it in 1948 and described it as being not fit for purpose in a post-world war environment.

Your actions in speaking to foreign media to cover your plight would have also placed you in contravention of the essence of this Act.

The rule of law itself is at fault.

It should not be utilised to entrap two journalists simply for doing their job and while investigating the criminal acts of the security forces in persecution of Rohingya villagers and the massacre of ten citizens in Rakhine state.

To say that incarcerating these innocent men is not about suppressing the freedom of expression is simply unjust.

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar spoke of the plight of freedom of speech in Myanmar.

Lee stated that it is “Unbelievable! more and more, responsible journalism is found to be a crime in Myanmar!”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the International Observatory of Human Rights and those who seek to support the freedom of expression around the world call on you now to stand up and use your moral authority to petition for the freedom of these innocent men, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and other journalists wrongly accused and incarcerated.

You have the chance to reverse the decline of justice and freedom of speech in the Union of Myanmar.

In 1997 I travelled all over Myanmar to meet the people and visit the country. You gave me hope that the country could change and adapt to the twenty-first century.

I call on you to show the world the woman who used to stand as a beacon of democracy and hope; rather than the silent solitary figure who seems to have lost her moral compass.

Please take action today and change the outcome to a positive result.

Sincerely and with hope.

Valerie Peay
International Observatory of Human Rights

27 September, 2018

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