James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism awarded to two Reuters journalists sentenced to prison in Myanmar

Alan Perez, Campus Editor

The two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven years in prison by a Myanmar court Monday after they were convicted on charges of illegal possession of official documents are the recipients of a 2017 Medill School of Journalism award.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been leading the outlet’s reporting on the violence and mass killing of Rohingya Muslims when they were arrested in December 2017. They pleaded not guilty to charges under the Official Secrets Act, saying they were framed by police.

The two men are being awarded the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism in June for their reporting of the country’s human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

“The coverage was riveting and horrifying,” award co-judge and Medill Prof. Donna Leff (Medill ‘70, Medill ‘71) said in the release announcing the award. “The reporting was meticulous and the story-telling was heroic.”

The sentences are likely to intensify outrage over the military’s human rights abuses that have led to more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees since last August. Global leaders from the United Nations, United States and elsewhere condemned the ruling.

The annual award is given to journalists and organizations who “best display moral, ethical or physical courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories,” according to Medill’s website.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were investigating the slaying of 10 Rohingya men by Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops. A February 2018 Reuters special report featuring the reporters’ bylines was described by the news agency as the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have implicated themselves.

According to the Associated Press, journalists and others shouted outside the court on Monday as the two were taken away.

“This is unfair,” Wa Lone told the crowd. “I want to say they are obviously threatening our democracy and destroying freedom of the press in our country.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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