Singapore Reuters reporters took a photo together holding “#FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo” signs to support their colleagues, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were recently sentenced in Myanmar for breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. The photo, which was posted on Twitter by Aurindom Mukherjee, Reuters Asia’s social media editor, got the attention of the Singapore Police Force.
Our @Reuters colleagues Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in jail for exposing a massacre by the Myanmar military. We at APAC HQ in Singapore stand with them and call for their immediate release #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo pic.twitter.com/hbuazN6Aqm
— Aurindom Mukherjee (@AurindomM) September 4, 2018
On Monday, September 3, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were given 7 years of hard labor by a Yangon judge for working fervently on an investigation that would bring to light the tragic massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Inn Din, a Rakhine state village in nothern Myanmar, which occurred while questionable military operations (genocide, according to investigators at the UN) were taking place.
The Myanmar government has claimed that the case is not related to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s reporting on the massacre, but that they are being held accountable for possession of Myanmar state secrets.
“They tried many times to get their hands on secret documents and pass them to others. They did not behave like normal journalists,” said Judge Ye Lwin, defending his verdict.
The case is currently making people question the judicial process in Myanmar and the meaning of freedom of the press.
Elsewhere, Reuters journalists have banded together, taking group photos with “#FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo” signs to show solidarity for their fellow reporters. Reporters from the Japan, London, China and Hong Kong offices have also posted their support photos, but Singapore’s photo was the only one that got the police talking.
Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong’s photos:
All of us at @Reuters Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong stand with our colleagues Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in jail for exposing a massacre by the Myanmar military. We call for their immediate release. #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo pic.twitter.com/e3wrspPr81
— Reuters China (@ReutersChina) September 4, 2018
.@Reuters #Japan, some of us pictured here, stand with our #Myanmar colleagues Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo – sentenced Monday to 7 years in jail for reporting on a military massacre of #Rohingya people. Photo by @ToruHanai #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo #JournalismIsNotACrime @ReutersPR pic.twitter.com/PKT7hlnTFR
— William Mallard (@BillyMallard) September 4, 2018
All of us @Reuters stand with our colleagues Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were unjustly sentenced to seven years in prison in Myanmar for their work as journalists. Here, colleagues in our London newsroom show our support. #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo pic.twitter.com/u4Py56E2k7
— Simon Robinson (@iron_emu) September 4, 2018
The New Paper reported that the Singapore Police Force have labeled the photo as a “public assembly without a police permit,” emphasizing that under the Public Order Act, it is against the law in Singapore for a public gathering to take place without police endorsement. First-timer offenders can expect fines up to S$5,000, and those who do it again get fined up to S$10,000 and undergo jail time of up to six months.
Under Singapore’s Public Order Act, this sort of assembly is illegal. The act defines assembly as “a gathering or meeting (whether or not comprising any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion) of persons the purpose (or one of the purposes) of which is — a) to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government; b) to publicize a cause or campaign; or c) to mark or commemorate any event.”
The police, according to the report by The New Paper, are “aware” of what is going on and are planning to “engage” with Reuters soon regarding the controversial picture. We are not sure what that means, but it seems farfetched to liken a quick group photo to a protest or to illegal activity, and people seem to agree, taking to Twitter to air their opinions.
ASEAN's views on free expression summed up nicely. S'pore police tackling the big issues here. "Police are aware of an online movement #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo. She added that the police would engage Reuters over the picture." https://t.co/J7u079L3C8
— Timothy McLaughlin (@TMclaughlin3) September 7, 2018
Are you freakin’ kidding me 🤬 https://t.co/5vw9JLTmEP
— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) September 7, 2018
Singapore’s police need to get a sense of perspective. 🙄 https://t.co/OPPdqMBpoE
— Marc Lourdes🇲🇾 (@marclourdes) September 7, 2018
(waste of police time)
— Red Dot Oz (@RedDot_Oz) September 7, 2018