Amal Clooney Makes UN Plea for Reporters Jailed in Myanmar

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney answers a question during a conference called “Press Behind Bars: Undermining Justice and Democracy,” at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Left is Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and right center is Steven J. Adler, President and Editor-in-Chief of Reuters. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

UNITED NATIONS (CN) – Describing the plight of two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar, attorney Amal Clooney issued a call Friday for Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene in the case.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s foreign minister and de facto leader, left, walks with senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, right, in the airport of capital Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on May 6, 2016.(AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

“Aung San Suu Kyi knows better than anyone what it’s like to be a political prisoner in Myanmar,” Clooney said this morning of the Myanmar state counsellor. “Now, she holds the key.”

Addressing a U.N. audience packed with journalists and human-rights workers, Clooney made the personal plea this morning at an event hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Earlier this month, a Myanmar judge sentenced Clooney’s clients, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, to seven-year sentences under the country’s Official Secrets Act.

The celebrated journalists had been reporting on a massacre of the Rohingya people, bringing light to what the United Nations would later call a campaign of ethnic cleansing, right around the time the Myanmar government claimed to have discovered them with secret documents.

Clooney said the timing was no coincidence. “Of course, what really happened is that officials found out about the story and didn’t want it to come out,” Clooney said.

In this combination image made from two photos, Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and Wa Lone are handcuffed as they are escorted by police out of the court on Sept. 3, 2018, in Yangon, Myanmar. The court sentenced the two journalists to seven years in prison Monday for illegal possession of official documents, a ruling that comes as international criticism mounts over the military’s alleged human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

During the trial, Clooney recounted, a senior officer gave “explosive testimony” that other officers planted the papers on her clients.

The lawyer’s actor-husband, George Clooney, was not in attendance for the speech. Introducing the celebrity attorney from the U.N. Trusteeship Council chamber, the press freedom group’s leader Joel Simon scolded the United Nations for avoiding naming and shaming member states violating the rights of journalists.

“The U.N. has a culture of rarely calling out its members,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists found 262 journalists behind bars around the world in its most recent annual census. Turkey ranks as the top press jailer, followed by China and Egypt, Simon noted.

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