January 19, 2018
Contact: Ron Boehmer 202-225-2906

Pocan Leads Members of Congress in Calling for Release of Journalists Detained in Burma

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02) today led Members of Congress in writing to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging the Trump Administration to continue to work with authorities in Burma to secure the release of two journalists from Reuters and drop the charges against them. One of the journalists, Wa Lone, visited Madison, Wisconsin in June 2016 to visit an elementary school class that participated in a book drive for children in Burma.

On December 12, the Burmese government arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Earlier this month, authorities formerly charged them with violating the country’s dated Official Secrets Act for their reporting on the horrific ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in the northern part of the country. The two journalists will have their next court hearing on January 23.

“Freedom of expression is under serious threat in Burma and the U.S. must continue to push Burmese authorities to end the trend of intimidation, harassment, and detention of journalists. One of the main recommendations from a U.N. commission formed to address the situation in Burma was to improve the freedom of journalists to observe and report on the situation in the Rakhine state,” wrote the Members. “In order for Burma to become a successful democracy, authorities must demonstrate their ability to defend and protect the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.”

“Further, we strongly encourage the Trump Administration to continue the U.S.’s long history of embracing and protecting the freedom of the press. When a president denigrates journalists and their reporting as fake news, it gives license to other countries to crack down on the freedom of press, which can include intimidating, jailing, and torturing members of the media,” continued the Members. “The U.S. must continue to serve as an example for other countries, rather than allow oppressive regimes to take a cue and act in the same style as Burma.”

The full letter is available here.

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