Saturday, October 16, 2021

Myanmar frees Japanese journalist as gesture to Tokyo

An arrested Japanese reporter returned home on Friday after being released by the ruling junta in Myanmar in a gesture of friendship with Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Yuki Kitazumi was released after attempts by Japanese diplomats and others. The reporter boarded a plane at Yangon Airport and landed in Japan on Friday night.

Kitazumi, a freelance journalist and former reporter for Japan’s Nikkei business news, said in a brief comment at the airport that he had heard of his release the night before and was told to pack his bag within ten minutes.

“As a journalist, I wanted to stay in Yangon and report, but I had to come back, and that’s my regret,” he said. He said he hopes to keep telling the world what is happening in Myanmar.

The army took power on February 1, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. It faced large, constant popular opposition, which they tried to suppress by using violence that cost hundreds of lives and by wasting the news media.

Myanmar’s Myawaddy TV, which is run by the army, said Kitazumi was arrested on April 18 for inciting anti-military civil disobedience and riots.

“Although the journalist is an offender, the case will be closed and he will be released at the request of the Special Envoy of the Japanese Government for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, in view of the close ties and future relations between Myanmar and Japan, said the junta in a statement on TV.

Japan has criticized the military government’s deadly repression of opposition, but has taken a lighter approach than the United States and some other countries that have imposed sanctions on members of the junta.

Kitazumi was also charged with violating visa regulations. He was the first foreign journalist to be charged under a law that the state press described as fake news. ‘

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He posted reports and opinions on the developments in Myanmar on Facebook. Hours before his arrest, he posted a video of Myanmar citizens gathering at a temple in Tokyo to pay tribute to people killed by Myanmar security forces, who are trying to quell the protests.

Kitazumi was briefly detained by police at the end of February while protesting pro-democracy in Myanmar.

The announcement that he had received pardon comes a day after a military court sentenced a journalist, Min Nyo, to three years in prison in Myanmar on similar charges.

Min Nyo is a correspondent for the Democratic Voice of Burma, an online and broadcast farm that continues to operate despite the junta’s ban.

A statement issued by DVB said Min Nyo was handling a protest against Junta on March 3 in the city of Pyay, 260 kilometers northwest of Yangon, when he was arrested and badly beaten by police.

About 80 journalists have been arrested since the takeover of the army. About half are still being held and most of them are being held under charges similar to the case for which Min Nyo was convicted, as are many activists opposed to the military regime.

The rights group Amnesty International said the case of Min Nyo shows the ruthlessness of the junta and the risks that journalists report on the abuse of the junta.

“Min Nyo’s conviction must be destroyed, and he must be released immediately – along with all other journalists, activists and human rights defenders detained and detained solely for their peaceful opposition to the military coup,” the deputy regional director of the group, Emerlynne Gil, said. said in a statement.

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