PEN America honors Reuters journalists with Barbey Freedom to Write Award

New York, NY, USAUpdated: May 23, 2018, 12:40 PM IST

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone leaves the court handcuffed, in a police vehicle, after a hearing in Yangon, Myanmar May 21, 2018. Photograph:(Reuters)

Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, currently detained in Myanmar, were honoured on Tuesday (May 22) with the PEN America 2018 Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been detained in Myanmar since December 12 and are accused of violating the country's colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. At the time of their arrests, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar's Rakhine state. The killings took place during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.

Wa Lone's and Kyaw Soe Oo's family accepted the award on their behalf.

"I believe that the truth will come out one day. I know that what the government is saying goes against the truth and what the truth really is," said Chit Suu Win, Kway Soe Oo's wife.

The reporters have told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before, having been invited to meet the officers for dinner.

The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award recognizes imprisoned writers targeted for exercising freedom of speech. Since 1987, 38 out of 42 jailed writers who received the award have been released due in part to the global awareness the award brings.