Tokyo – Japan’s government said on Monday that it is asking Myanmar to release a Japanese journalist who was arrested by security forces in his biggest city Yangon in the past.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that his government was asking Myanmar officials to tell them about the arrest and release them as soon as possible.
He did not identify the detained person, but Japanese media said that he is Yuki Kitazumi, a former newspaper reporter from Nikkei who is currently based in Yangon as an independent journalist.
Myanmar state television stations Myawadi TV and MRTV confirmed on Monday night that the arrested journalist was Kitazumi and said he was arrested on charges of violating Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code. This section bans comments that spread “cause of fear” as “false news (or) is a criminal offense, directly or indirectly, against a public servant.”
Dozens of other journalists are being held on the same charge, which carries a jail sentence of up to three years.
“We will continue to do our best to protect Japanese citizens in that country, and ask Myanmar for its early release,” Kato said.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry later said that the journalist was arrested at his home on Sunday night and is being held in Yangon’s Insane Prison, where political prisoners are often housed. It said that the Japanese Embassy officials had not been given access to it.
Kitazumi has posted reports and views on the developments in Myanmar on Facebook. Hours before his arrest, he showed a video of a number of Myanmar citizens gathering in Tokyo’s temple to pay tribute to those killed in the action of Myanmar’s military junta.
Kitazumi was briefly detained by police in late February, covering pro-democracy protests in Myanmar.
Japan has criticized the military government’s lethal action on the protests, but has adopted a militant approach compared to the United States and some other countries, which impose sanctions against members of the Janta.
On Saturday, the junta released more than 23,000 prisoners to mark the traditional New Year holiday. There were at least three political prisoners, but if any of the activists were detained during the coup action, it was not immediately clear.
According to the Assistant Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors casualties and arrests, government forces have killed at least 737 protesters and miscreants since the takeover. The group says 3,229 people are in custody, including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.