GENEVA, March 26, 2019 — An empty chair sat on stage at the 2019 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in honor of jailed Myanmar journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Ko Wa Lone.
The empty chairs on this panel are dedicated to Kyaw Soe Oo and Ko Wa Lone, two journalists imprisoned for seven years for reporting on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Ko Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, on December 12, 2017. At the time, the two men had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where security forces have been responsible for crimes against humanity, including deportation, unlawful killings, rape, torture and burning of homes and villages.
The two journalists were held incommunicado for two weeks before being transferred to Yangon’s Insein prison, a facility notorious for inhumane conditions and use of torture. The reporters have since told court officials that they were subject to sleep deprivation and forced to kneel for hours at secret police interrogation sites.
On September 3, 2018, the court convicted them on trumped-up charges and sentenced them to seven years in prison—a clear sign that the authorities are intent on silencing critical voices. Since they were convicted, the journalists’ lawyers have appealed all the way to the country’s Supreme Court, where their case currently sits.
Today, we pledge to never forget the courageous commitment of Kyaw Soe Oo and Ko Wa Lone for shining light on human rights abuses and we join the call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and countless leaders across the globe to urge Myanmar to release them.