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Schakowsky, Chabot, and Engel Lead Letter to Pompeo on Reuters Journalists Imprisoned in Burma

Schakowsky, Chabot, and Engel Lead Letter to Pompeo on Reuters Journalists Imprisoned in Burma

WASHINGTON— U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), and Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Friday in preparation for the United Nations General Assembly encouraging the Administration to continue to publicly call for the release of the two Reuters journalists unjustly sentenced in Burma for covering the Rohingya genocide and to raise their case with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

They were joined by 80 Members including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.); the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), the Ranking Member of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee Brad Sherman (D-Calif.); and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). 

The Members wrote: “We write to express our deep concern about two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in prison by a Burmese Court on September 3, 2018... Now that the journalists have been formally sentenced, we believe it is necessary to raise the issue again this time directly with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. We also urge you to publicly call on the Burmese Government to immediately and unconditionally release these journalists and other prisoners of conscience.”

They continued: “This case is only the latest example of the ongoing erosion of press freedom in Burma, especially directed at those covering military abuses, religious intolerance, and the Rohingya genocide. For many years under the military junta, journalists in Burma repeatedly faced intimidation, harassment, arrest, and imprisonment. Under a democratically elected civilian government, this should no longer be the case.”

Read the full letter hereand below:

September 13, 2018

Secretary of State

Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We write to express our deep concern about two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in prison by a Burmese Court on September 3, 2018. As you know, they were arrested last December for reporting on the genocide in Rakhine State against the Rohingya.  Many of us raised the issue with Secretary Tillerson at that time.  We appreciated your raising their case on the sidelines of the ASEAN Ministerial. Now that the journalists have been formally sentenced, we believe it is necessary to raise the issue again this time directly with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. We also urge you to publicly call on the Burmese Government to immediately and unconditionally release these journalists and other prisoners of conscience.

This case is only the latest example of the ongoing erosion of press freedom in Burma, especially directed at those covering military abuses, religious intolerance, and the Rohingya genocide. For many years under the military junta, journalists in Burma repeatedly faced intimidation, harassment, arrest, and imprisonment. Under a democratically elected civilian government, this should no longer be the case.

Like numerous leaders from around the world, we believe that the journalists’ sentence as politically motivated. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded that the sentence be “quashed and for them to be released, along with all other journalists currently in detention for their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has called for their “immediate and unconditional release.” She added, “The conviction of two journalists for doing their job is another terrible stain on the Burmese government… It is clear to all that the Burmese military has committed vast atrocities. In a free country, it is the duty of a responsible press to keep people informed and hold leaders accountable.”

Additionally, this case comes on the heels of the report from the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar issued on August 27, 2018 which contains ample evidence of “reasonable grounds” that the Burmese military’s atrocities meet the legal threshold of genocide.  Specifically, the report describes the “intent to commit genocide” against the Rohingya people and names six alleged perpetrators, including the Burmese army commander-in chief. This dramatic step by the United Nations demonstrates the gravity of the situation and the need for immediate action. The persecution of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo casts further doubt that there could ever be an impartial and independent domestic investigation into recent events in Rakhine State. We believe an independent, impartial, and international body must investigate the crimes committed in Rakhine state. We urge you to call for and pledge the support of the United States for such an investigation at the upcoming UN General Assembly this month, and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the two journalists.

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    repName Jan Schakowsky  
    helpWithFedAgencyAddress Chicago Office
    5533 N. Broadway
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    district 9th District of Illinois  
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    academyAgeDate July 1, 2017  
    academyApplicationDueDate October 20, 2017  
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    repDistrict 9  
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    repDistrictText 9th  
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