Two journalists jailed in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for breaking state-secrets laws while investigating a Rohingya massacre have been freed.
Wa Lone (33) and Kyaw Soe Oo (29) spent more than 500 days behind bars following their arrest in December 2017.
Convicted of breaking a colonial-era Official Secrets Act, the pair were given a seven-year prison sentence in September.
The men waved and smiled as they walked free from Insein Prison after receiving a surprise presidential pardon along with 6,520 other convicts.
President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.
It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17th.
Minutes after his release, Wa Lone said: "I'm really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues. I can't wait to go to my newsroom."
Together at last: @Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo celebrate with their children after being freed from prison in Myanmar, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang pic.twitter.com/f5ol5LBUJG
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 7, 2019
Ahead of their arrests, the reporters had been gathering evidence about the execution of 10 men in the village of Inn Din in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State.
The deaths happened during a widespread campaign of violence which started August 2017 and saw more than 700,000 Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The military crackdown followed attacks on police posts by Rohingya insurgents.
Their conviction sparked widespread condemnation and was criticised as "damaging" to press freedoms in the country.
Stephen J Adler, Editor-in-Chief of Reuters said: "We are enormously pleased that Myanmar has released our courageous reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.
"Since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world. We welcome their return."
During their time in jail, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were awarded a number of accolades for the report they had been writing - including a prestigious Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.
Main image: Reuters reporters Wa Lone (front left) and Kyaw Soe Oo (front right) sit in a vehicle after being freed from Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar | Image: Ann Wang/AP/Press Association Images