Japanese among 65 reporters held

Occupational hazard: Police escorting Kitazumi at the Myaynigone police station in Yangon. — AP

JAPAN has urged Myanmar authorities to release a Japanese journalist in custody at a Yangon prison, one of at least 65 reporters arrested during the junta’s crackdown on anti-coup protests.

The military has ramped up its attempts to crush dissent following mass demonstrations against its

ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with at least 737 civilians killed and the press increasingly under attack.

Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi was detained on Sunday, and a Japanese embassy spokesman confirmed that he was transferred overnight from a police watchhouse to the Insein prison.

BBC Burmese quoted a witness as saying the freelance journalist was picked up

from his home and taken into custody by troops on Sunday night. He was asked to raise both hands and was taken away in a car, it said.

Japan’s government spokesman described the journalist as a man in his forties, without naming him.

Kitazumi has not been charged yet and diplomats are seeking permission to visit him in jail, the spokesman told AFP yesterday.

Insein is notorious for holding political prisoners.

“We are asking Myanmar for the person’s early release. We will do our utmost to protect the Japanese national, ” Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

A spokesman for the junta did not respond to calls asking for comment.

Kitazumi runs a media production company, Yangon Media Professionals, and used to be a journalist with the Nikkei business daily, according to his Facebook page and interviews with online media.

It is the second time Kitazumi has been detained since the coup.

In February, he was beaten up and briefly held in custody during a crackdown on protesters but was later released.

The press has been caught in the junta’s crackdown as the military attempts to tighten control over the flow of information, throttling internet access and revoking the licenses of five local media outlets.

At least 34 journalists and photographers remain in custody across Myanmar, according to monitoring group Reporting Asean. — Agencies

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