Prof. Ara Darzi with Reuters journalist Wa Lone outside Insein Prison

Lord Ara Darzi Helps with Release of Two Reuters Reporters Jailed in Myanmar

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YANGON — The Director of Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation saw the release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar on Tuesday, May 7.

Professor the Lord (Ara) Darzi of Denham, who has worked in Myanmar (Burma) since 2012 on a humanitarian basis, spent recent months in dialogue with the government about the journalists’ status.

The two journalists, who have been held since December 2017 after reporting on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, were pardoned and released on May 7 in Yangon.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists were released as an international advisory group reviewed the implementation of the late Kofi Annan’s recommendations on the future of Rakhine State.

Darzi said: “I am delighted that the Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been granted a pardon, released from custody, and are with their loved ones once more. I know that it will come as a huge relief to their families, friends and colleagues.

“This outcome shows that dialogue works, even in the most difficult of circumstances. I would like to pay tribute to all of those that came together to achieve this—the Government of Myanmar, the world-renowned Reuters news agency, the UN and various governments and international organizations.

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“The power of dialogue must be turned towards securing a lasting peace in Rakhine State and the return of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, whose desperate plight continues. This is essential if Myanmar is to build on today’s progress so that all its citizens can live together in dignity in the hope of a better tomorrow.”

He used a BBC interview to emphasize that “There have been many international institutions and governments involved in the dialogue – and dialogue is the only way to achieve what we’ve achieved today.”

Lord Darzi’s contributions to improving the health system in Myanmar, include work to modernise Yangon General Hospital, and hosting a visit to Imperial’s Surgical Innovation Centre for the Burmese leader in 2017.

Lord Ara Darzi with journalists

In 2017 Darzi joined the International Advisory Board that was established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations on the future of Rakhine State made by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

He is currently in Myanmar for a meeting on the implementation of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission on the future of Rakhine State, which include freedom of the press.

According to Reuters, the agency for which the two journalsits worked, they were jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars.

They had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail, in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners on Tuesday.

Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.

Swamped by media and well-wishers as they walked through the gates of Insein Prison, a grinning Wa Lone gave a thumbs up and said he was grateful for the international efforts to secure their freedom.

“I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he said.

Reuters journalists Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo wave as they walk out from Insein Prison after being released in Yangon, Myanmar, on Tuesday

Kyaw Soe Oo smiled and waved to reporters.

The two were then driven away by Reuters colleagues and reunited with their wives and children.

Before their arrest in December 2017, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.

The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates.

The report the two men authored, featuring testimony from perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May, adding to a number of accolades received by the pair for their journalism. (reut.rs/2KFTSgQ) (reut.rs/2M5benE)

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

 

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