Japan asks Myanmar junta to release arrested journalist

In this Feb. 26, 2021, photo, Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi raises his hands as he is escorted by police upon arrival at the Myaynigone police station in Sanchaung township in Yangon, Myanmar.  Japan's government said Monday, April 19, 2021 it is asking Myanmar to release the Japanese journalist who was arrested by security forces in its largest city of Yangon the previous day. (AP Photo)
In this Feb. 26, 2021, photo, Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi raises his hands as he is escorted by police upon arrival at the Myaynigone police station in Sanchaung township in Yangon, Myanmar. Japan's government said Monday, April 19, 2021 it is asking Myanmar to release the Japanese journalist who was arrested by security forces in its largest city of Yangon the previous day. (AP Photo)

TOKYO – Japan's government said Monday it is asking Myanmar to release a Japanese journalist who was arrested by security forces in its largest city of Yangon the previous day.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that his government is asking Myanmar authorities to explain the arrest and release him as soon as possible.

He did not identify the detainee, but Japanese media said he is Yuki Kitazumi, a former Nikkei business newspaper reporter currently based in Yangon as a freelance journalist.

Myanmar state television stations Myawaddy TV and MRTV on Monday night confirmed that the arrested journalist is Kitazumi, and said he had been arrested on a charge of violating Section 505(A) of the Penal Code. The section prohibits comments that “cause fear,” spread “false news, (or) agitates directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a Government employee."

Dozens of other journalists are being held on the same charge, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.

“We will continue asking the Myanmar side for his early release, while doing our utmost for the protection of Japanese citizens in that country,” Kato said.

Japan's Foreign Ministry later said the journalist was arrested at his home on Sunday night and is being detained at Yangon's Insein Prison, where political prisoners are frequently held. It said Japanese Embassy officials have not been given access to him.

Kitazumi has posted reports and views about developments in Myanmar on Facebook. Hours before his arrest, he posted a video showing Myanmar citizens gathering at a Tokyo temple to pay tribute to people killed in the Myanmar military junta's crackdown on protests against its Feb. 1 seizure of power from an elected government.