EVANSTON, IL -- Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism honored Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with the 2017 James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for their coverage of the killing of Rohingya Muslim villagers in Myanmar. The two men have been detained by the government of Myanmar since the end of 2017. Reuters Myanmar Bureau Chief Antoni Slodkowski accepted the awards on their behalf.
“They were obsessed with the story that they needed to report,” said Slodkowski of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s work.
The journalists worked to corroborate and uncover the state sponsored killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in Rakhine State. Under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has sent more than 700,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, according to Reuters. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s investigation confirmed the violence that the government of Myanmar denied had occurred.
The journalists were imprisoned on charges of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act before their coverage was published. Slodkowski said that even after imprisonment, Wa Lone and Soe Oo urged for the story to still be shared. They worked with “a quiet, understated persistence,” even after being detained, said Slodkowski.
In 2014, Northwestern renamed the award in honor of slain conflict journalist James Foley. Foley was beheaded by ISIS in 2014 after nearly two years in captivity in northern Syria. The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation was created the same year by his family to improve the safety and treatment of independent freelance conflict journalists, to advocate for the safe return of Americans kidnapped abroad and to improve U.S. hostage policy.
"Jim was so proud of his affiliation with Medill/Northwestern,” said Diane Foley in a written statement shared at the event. “On behalf of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, I humbly thank you for remembering Jim's passionate commitment to press freedom and for honoring those who continue his legacy of shining a spotlight on very dark places in our world. Allow his courage to inspire you to use your voice and pen for good.”
For more photos from the event, click here.