Myanmar Frees Pulitzer-Winning Reuters Journalists After More Than 500 Days

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The government of Myanmar released two Pulitzer-winning journalists Tuesday, who had been imprisoned for over 500 days.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were awarded the Pulitzer prize for the duo’s 2017 reporting on the country’s persecution of Rohingya citizens, which caused a massive refugee and humanitarian crisis.

The journalists were prosecuted for their reporting that same year under an archaic law called the “Official Secrets Act,” which carries a prison sentence of 14 years. The prosecution was widely seen as an attempt to intimidate journalists. (RELATED: New Zealand Official Accuses ‘Morally Bankrupt’ Facebook Of Promoting Genocide)

The two journalists were released after 511 days following a pardon from Myanmar President Win Myint.

The two walked out of jail Tuesday to a flock of reporters and onlookers, with Wa Lone saying that he is excited to get back to work following over a year in prison.

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

“We are enormously pleased Myanmar has released our courageous reporters,” Reuters Editor and Chief Stephen Adler said in a statement. “Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return.”

The decision was celebrated by many in the international community, including Vice President Mike Pence. (RELATED: Mike Pence Rips Rep. Ilhan Omar Over Venezuela)

“Freedom of religion & freedom of the press are essential to a strong democracy!” Pence said.

The U.S. strongly condemned Myanmar after Reuters’ report and the journalists subsequent prosecution. Last year, the U.S. treasury department imposed sanctions on the country and accused them of “ethnic cleansing.”

“Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker said at the time.

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