Image: AP

Two Reuters journalists, who have been imprisoned in Myanmar since 2017 for their work covering the Rohingya crisis, have been released.

The Burmese reporters—33-year-old Wa Lone and 29-year-old Kyaw Soe Oo—were arrested in December of 2017 under the country’s mercurial Official Secrets Act while investigating the death of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in the country’s Rakhine State.

According to Reuters, Wa Lone grinned and gave a thumbs up as he and Kyaw Soe Oo walked away from Insein Prison on the outskirts of Yangon, saying he was grateful for the global efforts to grant their freedom. “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,” he said, adding, “I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”

The jailing of the two journalists came as a shock to the international community, which had hopes that press freedom would flourish when the pro-democracy Aung San Suu Kyi became Myanmar’s de facto prime minister in 2016. Instead, the number of journalists arrested in Myanmar has actually risen, according to Human Rights Watch. Aung San Suu Kyi has largely aligned herself with the military, which has carried out what the U.N. has termed a genocide against the Rohingya, who have lived in Rakhine for generations.

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The reporters were released by President Win Myint as part of an annual tradition in which authorities free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.