UNITED NATIONS • Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has appealed to Ms Aung San Suu Kyi over a pardon for two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar, saying the Nobel Peace laureate held the key to their release.
The two fathers, accused of breaching Myanmar's state secrets law while reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims, were jailed for seven years earlier this month, fuelling international outrage.
Mrs Clooney said the journalists' families had already submitted a request for their pardon, adding that Myanmar's President can grant a pardon following consultation with Ms Suu Kyi.
"The government can, if it wants to, end it today," the British-Lebanese lawyer told an event dedicated to press freedom on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last Friday.
She held Myanmar's de facto leader Ms Suu Kyi to her stated priority of releasing prisoners of conscience and of having spoken of the need for a free press if the country is to transition to a full democracy.
"She knows that mass murder is not a state secret and that exposing it doesn't turn a journalist into a spy," Mrs Clooney said.
Earlier this month, Ms Suu Kyi defended the jailing of Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, hitting back at international criticism of a trial widely seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press.
Mrs Clooney recalled that when she was a student at St Hugh's College, Oxford, the Nobel Peace laureate, who studied at the same college 30 years earlier, had been "a hero to me".
"Aung San Suu Kyi knows better than anyone what it is like to be a political prisoner in Myanmar. She has slept in a cell at the prison where Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo now sleep," she said.
The case, which sparked a global outcry, was seen as an attempt to muzzle reporting on last year's crackdown by Myanmar's security forces on the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.
Myanmar minister Kyaw Tint Swe told the General Assembly that his government "resolutely rejected" a decision by the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against the Rohingya.