Journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and Wa Lone were freed after spending more than 500 days in jail, for a case that police admitted was a 'set-up', because they were investigating a massacre in Rakhine state. Photo: AFP

Washington on Wednesday renewed its call on Myanmar to free two Reuters reporters imprisoned after reporting on the Rohingya crisis, expressing dismay at a fresh denial of their appeal.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision sent “a profoundly negative signal about freedom of expression” in Myanmar.

“The United States is deeply concerned by recent arrests of reporters, political activists, civil society members and satirical performers in Burma,” said Ortagus, using the former name of Myanmar.

“We urge Burma to protect hard-earned freedoms, prevent further backsliding on recent democratic gains and reunite these journalists with their families,” she said in a statement.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing classified documents.

The journalists’ supporters believe they were punished for investigating a massacre of 10 members of the Rohingya minority, the target of a brutal military crackdown that has forced some 740,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

They were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their story, one of the greatest honors in journalism.

Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was once admired in the West while under house arrest for advocating democracy, has refused to intervene on their behalf.

– with reporting by AFP

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