Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the two Reuters journalists who were jailed in Myanmar for over 500 days since December 2017, were freed on Tuesday after a presidential amnesty. The duo were detained for covering the country’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya minority group, ending a drama that had brought global scrutiny upon the country’s de facto civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The conviction of Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, in September last year sparked an outcry from diplomats and press freedom advocates, who said the jailing of two young reporters raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy.
During more than 500 days behind bars, their reporting on a military crackdown in Rakhine State was recognized with international awards. The men were awarded in April the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s most coveted and prestigious honors. Moreover, they were named by Time magazine as its “Person of the Year” alongside other journalists last year.
Here are some key facts to know about Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo
Wa Lone was born to a family of rice farmers in the village of Kin Pyit, in the Shwebo district of Myanmar, in 1986.
Around 2004 he moved to Mawlamyine, cleaning and preparing food in exchange for lodging at a Buddhist monastery where his uncle was a monk.
In 2010 he and one of his brothers moved to Yangon, Myanmar, where they began a photo service business. He worked as a reporter for outlets including the Myanmar Times, an English-language newspaper where he met his future wife, Pan Ei Mon. He joined Reuters in 2016 and married Pan Ei Mon the same year.
He has also been active in volunteer and charity work. He co-founded the Third Story Project, a charitable foundation that produces and distributes books that aim to promote tolerance between Myanmar’s different ethnic groups.
He authored some of the books himself, including Jay Jay the Journalist, which he wrote while incarcerated at Yangon’s Insein prison.
Kyaw Soe Oo
Kyaw Soe Oo was born to a Buddhist family in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State that has been beset by bursts of ethnic violence since 2012
Kyaw Soe Oo begun working as a journalist and was involved in setting up Root Investigative Agency, an outlet focused on news in Rakhine.
He is married to Chit Su Win, who once worked for his family in Sittwe. Their daughter, Moe Thin Wai Zan, is three years old.
After the north of Rakhine State erupted in violence in 2017, Kyaw Soe Oo started working for Reuters, where he and Wa Lone uncovered a massacre of Rohingya men and boys in the village of Inn Din. The pair were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in April.