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A Japanese journalist arrested while covering the consequences of the coup in Myanmar must be deported, Tokyo said on Friday, after charges against him were dropped as a diplomatic gesture.
Yuki Kitazumi, held at Insein Prison in Yangon since his arrest last month, was one of at least 80 journalists detained during the junta’s crackdown on anti-coup dissent.
Security forces have killed more than 780 people since protests erupted following the February 1 coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a local watch group.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi confirmed that the journalist was sent back to Japan on Friday.
Motegi said Japan had used “various channels” to press for his release and that it had been “hard work”.
“As a result of these efforts, Myanmar authorities announced yesterday that they would withdraw the indictment,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
“Currently, the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar is helping the individual return to Japan – by bringing the person’s items from the person’s apartment.”
Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said on Thursday that the charges against Kitazumi were dropped “in order to reconcile with Japan and improve our relations.”
State media said an earlier investigation revealed Kitazumi “supported the protests.”
He was charged under a recently revised article of the penal code that criminalizes the dissemination of false news, criticism of the coup or the encouragement of disobedience among soldiers and officials.
Kitazumi, who was previously arrested in February but released shortly after, was the first foreign journalist to be charged since the coup.
A Polish photographer arrested while covering a protest in March has been released and deported after nearly two weeks in detention.
In addition to arresting journalists and photographers, the junta also revoked broadcasting licenses and ordered regular internet shutdowns as it sought to suppress news of the anti-coup protest movement.
Convicts can face up to three years in prison.
On Wednesday, a journalist for the independent media outlet DVB, Min Nyo, was sentenced to three years in prison under this provision.
Ko Aung Kyaw Oo, a former Tomorrow Journal reporter, was arrested Thursday afternoon in a teahouse in Yenanchaung, Magway region, his son confirmed to AFP.
“We don’t know why he was arrested and they gave no reason for his arrest,” the son said.
Forty-five journalists and photographers remain in detention across Myanmar, according to monitoring group Reporting ASEAN.
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© 2021 AFP