Jakarta. The jailing of two Reuters journalists who were investigating the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has not only sparked public outcry in the Southeast Asian nation, but also triggered widespread protests by journalists around the world, including in Indonesia.
Dozens of journalists staged a rally in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta on Friday (07/09), calling on the country's government to release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were each sentenced to seven years in prison this week for breaching the country's secrecy laws.
The rally was organized by the Freelance Journalist Forum of Indonesia (FJFI) and the Jakarta chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).
"We demand that the government of Myanmar frees our journalist friends; two Reuters journalists. "We are not criminals. We are journalists. Free the journalists in Myanmar!" shouted Fira Abdurachman, who led a group of protesters who had taped up their mouths and wrists.
The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) meanwhile also released a press statement condemning the court ruling.
"We strongly condemn the jailing of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar for seven years," the JFCC executive committee said in a statement on Tuesday.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been detained since their arrest nearly nine months ago, were convicted on Monday for violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act.
They were arrested while investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men and other alleged human rights violations in Myanmar's Rakhine State.
"Without any evidence of wrongdoing and in the face of compelling evidence of a police setup, today's ruling condemns their freedom and condones the misconduct of security forces," Stephen J. Adler, Reuters president and editor-in-chief, said in a statement on Monday.
"This is a major step backward in Myanmar's transition to democracy," he added.
The two journalists' sentencing has triggered international outrage, including from United States Vice President Mike Pence, who expressed his concern through his official Twitter account on Tuesday.
Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo shd be commended—not imprisoned—for their work exposing human rights violations & mass killings. Freedom of religion & freedom of the press are essential to a strong democracy. We call on the Gov’t of Burma to reverse this ruling & release them immediately. — Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) September 4, 2018
During Friday's peaceful protest in Jakarta, journalists also called on the governments of Indonesia and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to pressure Myanmar to release the two journalists. Myanmar is a member of the 10-nation regional bloc.
"Madam Aung San Suu Ky, we're knocking on your door to free our journalist friends in Myanmar," protest leader Fira Abdurachman said, adding that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are part of democracy.