Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo (C) gesture as they walk free outside Insein prison after a presidential amnesty in Yangon on May 7, 2019. - Two Reuters journalists who had been jailed for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar walked out of prison on May 7, freed in a presidential amnesty after a global campaign for their release. (Photo by MYAT THU KYAW/AFP/Getty Images)

The UN on Tuesday praised the release of two Reuters journalists jailed for reporting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, but warned that freedom of expression remains heavily restricted in the country.

The release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is “good news,” United Nations human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“Of course, they should never have been arrested or convicted in the first place,” she added.

Shamdasani noted that last year the rights office had issued a set of recommendations aimed at improving free speech in Myanmar.

“No positive progress has been observed,” in terms of implementing those changes, she said.

“The situation for freedom of expression (in Myanmar) is dire.”

The journalists were arrested in December 2017, a sign of Myanmar’s deteriorating press freedoms under Nobel laureate and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

They were convicted on charges of violating the official secrets act and sentenced to seven years each.

At the time of their arrest, they had been reporting on a September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims in conflict-hit Rakhine state, where the Myanmar army forced some 740,000 of the stateless minority to flee over the border to Bangladesh.

They were freed in an amnesty that included more than 6,000 prisoners.

(Reuters)