The Japanese government said on Monday that it is asking the Myanmar government to release a Japanese journalist, who was arrested by security forces in the largest city of Yangon the previous day. The Japanese foreign ministry said that the journalist was arrested from his home on Sunday night, and is being detained at Yangon’s Insein Prison, where most of the political prisoners are frequently held.
Till now, the Japanese Embassy officials have not been given access to him. Kyodo News Agency reported that Yuki Kitazumi was arrested on the suspicion of spreading “fake” news. The journalist had posted reports and views about the developments in Myanmar on Facebook. Just a few hours before his arrest, he posted a video showing Myanmar citizens gathering at the Tokyo temple to pay tribute to the people who were killed in the Myanmar military junta’s clampdown on a protest against the February 1 capture of power from an elected government.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, on behalf of his government, had asked the Myanmar authorities to explain the arrest and release the journalist as soon as possible. The Japanese media said that the arrested journalist was indeed Yuki Kitazumi, who was a former reporter at Nikkei business newspaper. He was working as a freelance journalist, based in Yangon. “We will continue asking the Mayanmar side for his early release while doing our utmost for the protection of Japanese citizens in that country,” Kato told the reporters.
Kitazumi was detained briefly by police in late February while covering pro-democracy protests in Myanmar. While other countries, such as the United States, have imposed sanctions against the members of the junta, Japan has taken a milder approach towards the military government. But Japan has escalated its criticism of the military government’s crackdown on the opposition.
On Saturday, the junta had released more than 23,000 prisoners as a token of celebration of the traditional new year’s holiday. at least three of them were political prisoners. But it was not clear immediately whether any of the protestors arrested during the post-coup d’état were relieved.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, government forces have killed more than 728 protestors and bystanders since the coup. The group has stated that about 3,141 people, including expelled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, are in imprisonment.