'Arrest Me Too': Myanmar Media Defies Generals in Solidarity with Jailed Reuters Journalists

Dissent in Myanmar has been growing in response to the jailing of two Reuters journalists who investigated the extra-judicial killings of Rohingya Muslims.

An online campaign under the hashtag #ArrestMeToo has dovetailed with public protests as anger grows at the seven-year prison sentences for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for breaching the country's Official Secrets Act.

Dozens of journalist networks, activists and rights groups released a statement calling for their release.

"We strongly condemn the punishment of the two journalists for simply carrying out their media work. This decision indicates that the entire trial process was neither free nor fair and was completely manipulated.

Activists demonstrate against what they say is Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic cleansing, and sentencing of two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years in jail. An #ArrestMeToo movement has been started across the country. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

"We call on the government, the military and all other relevant authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, protect freedom and promote accountability," said the statement that was sent to the military, parliament, Myanmar Press Council and the offices of the president U Win Myint, Frontier Myanmar reported.

Protesters held up posters in Mandalay calling for the journalists to be freed and there were also other actions in smaller towns such as Pyay and Thahton.

The newspaper 7 Day Daily blacked out part of its front page while the Myanmar Times ran a cartoon with the image of a newspaper and a spear through it, with the words, "Who's next?"

There is unhappiness among many journalists at the stance taken by the Myanmar Press Council, which has refrained from criticizing the pursuit of the government case.

Ma Khin Myat Myat Wai, a reporter at The Voice Daily, told Frontier: "We also need to see what the Myanmar Press Council is going to do, whether they are going to put pressure on the government, since they are the representatives of journalists at the state level."

Lawyer for the jailed journalists, U Khin Maung Zaw, said at a press conference: "I am extremely disappointed by the verdict, not just for the family members but also for Myanmar and our path to democracy. This verdict affects the democratization of Myanmar."

The case could impact on Myanmar's burgeoning economy with an investment forum in Singapore being told this week that there needed to be increasing transparency in how the government dealt with the Rakhine crisis.

U Aung Naing Oo, Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) director general said the crisis was a barrier for many potential investors.

"Not only the international community but also…some of the local communities are not happy with the decision so therefore that will have some impact on our reputation," the Myanmar Times reported.

Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced criticism for her refusal to condemn the trial or verdict. She is already under fire for not criticising the military's actions against the Rohingya, 700,000 of whom have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

Wa Lone's wife, Ma Pan Ei Mon, said: "I feel very hurt. We used to admire her. I was very proud of our leader," Frontier Myanmar reported.