(File photo of Nagai taken in 2003 by Kyodo News via Reuters.)
New York, September 27, 2007
" A Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, 50, who was working for Tokyo-based video and photo agency APF News, was one of at least nine people killed today by Burmese troops cracking down on anti-government demonstrations in Rangoon, according to official Japanese state-run television….."
“*Kenji Nagai* of APF, a Japanese news service, continues to work after being shot during clashes today between Burmese security forces and anti-government protesters. Nagai later died of his wounds. The Japanese government expressed its outrage over the incident.
The photo of Nagai, 50, was taken by an unidentified person and distributed by Reuters. Reporters Without Borders mentions in passing that another foreign journalist was reportedly injured today in Burma…."
YANGON, Myanmar – Soldiers with automatic rifles fired into crowds of anti-government demonstrators Thursday, killing at least nine people in the bloodiest day in more than a month of protests demanding an end to military rule.
Bloody sandals lay scattered on some streets as protesters fled shouting “Give us freedom, give us freedom!”
On the second day of a brutal crackdown, truckloads of troops in riot gear also raided Buddhist monasteries on the outskirts of Yangon, beating and arresting dozens of monks, witnesses and Western diplomats said. Japan protested the killing of a Japanese photographer….."
Amnesty International’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the
rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the
context of its work to promote all human rights.
UANetwork Office AIUSA 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003 T. 202.544.0200 F. 202.675.8566 E. firstname.lastname@example.org amnestyusa.org/urgent/
*26 September 2007
UA 250/07: Fear of torture or ill-treatment/health concern
Myint Myint San (f), National League for Democracy (NLD) member
Paik Ko (m), NLD Member of Parliament, Pakokku
Par Par Lay (m), comedian
Zargana (m), also known as Ko Thura, comedian
Tin Aung (m), NLD Member of Parliament
Tin Ko (m), NLD youth member in Meiktila
U Win Naing (m), politician
Up to 300 others, including Buddhist monks*
Around 300 people were reportedly arrested in a crackdown on anti-government protests launched by the ruling
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in the evening of 25 September in the former capital Yangon, the
second-biggest city, Mandalay, and also Meiktila, Pakokku and Mogok. Amnesty International was told that a
number of people had gone into hiding.
Some were reportedly arrested in the evening of 24 September, but most were seized during the following 36 hours,
as the crackdown by security forces escalated. Among those arrested were between 50 and 100 monks in Yangon.
Parliamentarian Paik Ko and at least one other member of parliament from the main opposition party, the National
League for Democracy (NLD), which is led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, several other NLD members and other
public figures, including the famous comedian and former prisoner of conscience Zargana ere also reported to have
been arrested. Amnesty International believes these and other detainees are at grave risk of torture or other ill-
Officials confirmed to journalists that at least three monks were killed in Yangon: one was shot and two were
beaten to death. Unofficial sources told Amnesty International that up to 50 monks had been injured.
Despite the high tension, thousands of people continue to take to the streets in continued anti-government protests,
led by monks, who have reportedly asked ordinary civilians to stay away, in an apparent effort to protect them.
The security forces have reportedly beaten demonstrators with batons, used teargas to disperse crowds defying a
recent ban on gatherings of more than five people, and fired warning shots into the air.
Peaceful demonstrations began in August in response to sharp increases in fuel prices. They have grown rapidly in
size and number. Buddhist monks, who took the lead in the protests after reports that monks had been injured by
security forces in the town of Pakokku, have called for a reduction in commodity prices, the release of political
prisoners and a process of national reconciliation to resolve deep political divisions.
In the evening of 25 September, the authorities began a crackdown on the protesters, introducing a 60-day 9pm-
5am curfew and issuing public warnings of legal action against protesters.
Human rights violations in Myanmar are widespread and systematic. They include the use of child soldiers and
forced labour. There are laws that criminalize peaceful expression of political dissent. At the end of 2006 most
senior opposition figures were imprisoned or administratively detained, among more than 1,160 political prisoners
held in deteriorating prison conditions. People are frequently arrested without warrant and held incommunicado;
torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are common, especially during interrogation and while in
custody awaiting trial. Judicial proceedings against political detainees fall short of international standards for fair
trial: defendants are often denied the right to legal counsel and prosecutors have relied on confessions extracted
RECOMMENDEDACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible
- expressing concern at reports that hundreds of monks and other peaceful protesters, including well-known
comedian Zargana and member of parliament Paik Ko have been detained;
- urging the authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally, unless they are to be charged with
recognisably criminal offences;
- calling on the authorities to ensure that, while they remain in custody, all the detainees are held only in official
places of detention, and are given immediate access to lawyers, their families and any medical treatment they may
- calling on the authorities to ensure that the detainees are not subjected to torture or any other ill-treatment;
- calling on the authorities to ensure that all people in Myanmar are able to peacefully exercise the rights to freedom
of expression, association and assembly without fear of harassment, intimidation or arbitrary detention, in line with
international human rights standards.
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
Senior General Than Shwe
c/o Ministry of Defence, Naypyitaw, Union of
Myanmar Salutation: Dear General
Foreign Minister Nyan Win
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Naypyitaw, Union of
Myanmar Fax: 001 95 1 222 950
011 95 1 221 719
Salutation: Dear Minister
U Aye Maung
Office of the Attorney General, Office No. 25,
Naypyitaw, Union of Myanmar Fax: 011 95 67 404 146
011 95 67 404 106
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
Brig-General Khin Yi
Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Naypyitaw,
Union of Myanmar Salutation: Dear Director General
Mr. Myint Lwin, Counsellor Minister
Charge D’Affairs Ad Interim
Embassy of the Union of Burma
2300 S St. NW
Washington DC 20008 Fax: 1 202 332 4351
PLEASESENDAPPEALSIMMEDIATELY. Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending
appeals after 6 November 2007.
Tokyo (dpa) – Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Friday urged China to exercise its influence over Burma to help resolve the current crisis and stabilise the internal.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Fukuda in a telephone conversation that China would make an effort to do so while closely observing the development, a spokesman told reporters.
Earlier Friday, Japan filed a strong protest against the Burmese government after the death of a Japanese video journalist during an anti-government demonstration.
“It is important to continue seeking clarification of the truth. We will also strongly demand (the Burmese government) to take appropriate measures to avoid the same situation from happening again,” top government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said at a press conference Friday.
The 50-year-old journalist, Kenji Nagai, was reportedly shot dead by security forces while filming the military crackdown on demonstrations, becoming the first foreigner to die in the uprising…."
“TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will decide whether to suspend humanitarian aid to Myanmar after investigating the killing of a Japanese photographer during anti-government protests, the chief cabinet secretary said on Friday.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that 50-year-old photographer Kenji Nagai was shot dead in Yangon. Pictures smuggled out of the country showed him taking photos with a small camera even as he lay dying on a street…"
“YANGON, Myanmar — Soldiers with automatic rifles fired into crowds of anti-government demonstrators yesterday, killing at least nine people in the bloodiest day in more than a month of protests demanding an end to military rule.
Bloody sandals lay scattered on some streets as protesters fled shouting “Give us freedom, give us freedom!”
On the second day of a brutal crackdown, truckloads of troops in riot gear also raided Buddhist monasteries on the outskirts of Yangon, beating and arresting scores of monks, witnesses and Western diplomats said.
Japan protested the killing of a Japanese photographer…."
“….Some of the day’s most striking photographs showed a gunshot victim identified as the dead Japanese journalist lying in the street, camera still in hand, after two or three bursts of gunfire sent protesters running. One picture, posted on the Web site of the Japanese television network Fuji, showed a soldier pointing his rifle down at the man lying face up on the ground clutching a camera.
Japan’s new foreign minister, Masahiko Komura, told reporters in Washington that his country held Myanmar’s government accountable for the killing of journalist Kenji Nagai, 50, who was covering the protests for the Japanese video news agency APF News.
The bloodshed followed lesser violence Wednesday, in which the government said police bullets killed one person, while media and dissident reports said up to eight died on the first day of the crackdown in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
Dramatic images of bloodied protesters and fleeing crowds have captured world attention and prompted the United Nations and many governments to call for the junta to end the confrontation peacefully.
The United States imposed economic sanctions Thursday on more than a dozen senior Myanmar officials, including the junta’s two top generals, and it again urged China as Myanmar’s main economic and political ally to use its influence to prevent further bloodshed. …"
“….Groups of people were forced to lie on their stomachs while they were searched, and if found with cameras or cellphones, which are rare in Myanmar, they were beaten and their equipment was smashed.
After darkness fell and curfew hour loomed, sporadic bursts of automatic rifle fire echoed over Rangoon, a city of five million people.
However, in a sign that the junta may be hearing the international outcry over its crackdown, Myanmar’s rulers agreed yesterday to receive a United Nations envoy to discuss the crisis."
27 September 2007
Soldiers raid hotels of foreign journalists and shut down newspapers
Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association (BMA) today condemned new attempts by Burmaâ€™s military rulers to exert pressure on foreign journalists and the Burmese media.
Soldiers and police today descended on several hotels in Rangoon, including Traders, to check the IDs of foreign journalists there. Internet and international phone lines are still open at these hotels.
A local source said the regime today ordered the closure of several privately-owned newspapers that refused to print government propaganda. A few days ago, military censors threatened reprisals against papers that refused to obey government orders.
Reporters Without Borders and the BMA also called on Japan to impose sanctions on the regime after the death of cameraman Kenji Nagai, of the Japanese photo and video agency APF News. Pictures put out by Reuters news agency very clearly show him being shot by a soldier even though he was easily identifiable as a journalist because of his camera.
The two organisations welcomed the creation in Burma on 24 September of a group of journalists, lawyers, doctors and former military officers to document the current atrocities by the regimeâ€™s security forces and take the evidence before international courts so those responsible can be punished.*":http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23802
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today is designating 14 senior Burmese Government officials in the wake of that government’s longstanding oppression of the Burmese people and its recent use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. Treasury’s action follows President George W. Bush’s announcement of plans for tightening U.S. sanctions against the military regime in Burma, made before the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2007.
“We are today imposing sanctions against senior officials of the Government of Burma,” said Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). “The President has made clear that we will not stand by as the regime tries to silence the voices of the Burmese people through repression and intimidation.”
The designations were made pursuant to Executive Order 13310, which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to designate senior officials of the Government of Burma, the State Peace and Development Council of Burma (the military regime that rules Burma), the Union Solidarity and Development Association of Burma, or any of their successor organizations, as well as any individuals or entities that are owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, any person, whose property or interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order. Executive Order 13310 also blocked property and interests in property of the four entities listed on its Annex, the State Peace and Development Council of Burma and three banks controlled by the Government of Burma.
The Burmese government leaders designated today by OFAC include Senior General Than Shwe, Minister of Defense and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC); Vice Senior General Maung Aye, Commander of the Army and Vice Chairman of the SPDC; Lieutenant General Thein Sein, Acting Prime Minister and First Secretary of the SPDC; and General Thura Shwe Mann, Joint Chief of Staff, Armed Forces and Member of the SPDC. The other senior officials of the Government of Burma named include other members of the State Peace and Development Council, key military officials, and other government ministers.
As a result of Treasury’s designations, any assets these individuals and entities may have that are within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from transacting or doing business with them.
“Japanese photographer and video journalist Kenji Nagai, 50, was shot dead on a Yangon street on Thursday. Pictures smuggled out of the country showed him taking photos with a small camera even as he lay dying.”
“Nine people were killed on Thursday.
The victims include a Japanese news photographer. Kenji Nagai, 50, was shot dead on Thursday as he filmed demonstrations in the main city, Rangoon.
TV footage has emerged which raises the possibility that he may have been deliberately targeted rather than caught in cross fire.”
“The japanese journalist, it shot from close range.27/9/07
Japanese journalist shot to death covering protests in Burma. Kenji Nagai of APF, a Japanese news service, continues to work after being shot during clashes today between Burmese security forces and anti-government protesters. Nagai later died of his wounds.”
“*Kenji Nagai*, the video journalist who was killed in Myanmar, had operated in war zones like Iraq and was in the country to report on the mass prodemocracy demonstrations.
On Thursday, he was shot to death in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, by soldiers of the military junta while filming protests led by Buddhist monks and ordinary citizens, using a small video recorder…."
“…Video emerged of a striking image â€” the shooting death Thursday of a man identified as Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai of the video agency APF News.
The Democratic Voice of Burma released video of security forces opening fire on protesters, including a man falling forward after apparently being shot at point-blank range, and the opposition shortwave radio station based in Norway said the victim was Nagai, 50.
Another image posted on the Web site of Japanese TV network Fuji showed Nagai lying in the street, camera still in hand, with a soldier pointing his rifle down at him.
Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association condemned new attempts by the military rulers to exert pressure on foreign journalists and the domestic media. The groups said security forces raided several Yangon hotels Thursday to check the IDs of foreign journalists.
The junta ordered the closure of several privately owned newspapers that refused to print government propaganda, the groups said…"
Reporters Without Borders is reporting that Japanese photojournalist Kenji Negai was killed this morning when Burmese security forces fired on demonstratorsin Rangoon. Another foreign journalist was injured.
Fifty-year-old Negai worked for the photo agency APF.
A journalist lies dying. A man is trampled under foot. The horror of events as a ruthless regime fights the spirit of freedom
by Martin Fletcher
“A Japanese journalist lies fatally wounded on a wet Rangoon street. Demonstrators flee in terror from the juntaâ€™s gun-toting, baton-wielding security forces. A man is being trampled underfoot. A teargas cylinder flies through the air. Flip-flops, lost in the panic, and discarded water bottles litter the road…”
“RANGOON, MYANMAR (September 26, 2007) – Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai, 50, appeared to try to keep shooting video of panic-stricken protesters fleeing Burmese soldiers who were shooting at them, even after he was mortally shot once in the chest and fell to the ground, dying, today in Rangoon.
Nagai was one of nine people killed during the clash with soldiers and police Thursday…."
“New York, September 28, 2007 â€” The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the apparently deliberate fatal shooting of Japanese cameraman Kenji Nagai by a Burmese soldier on Thursday. Video footage shown on Japanâ€™s Fuji News Network reveals that Nagai, who was filming near a group of demonstrators in Yangon, was pushed to the ground and shot at near point-blank range.
The Japanese embassy in Burma said the bullet entered Nagaiâ€™s body from the lower right side of his chest, pierced his heart, and exited from his back. Their statement contradicts Burmese authoritiesâ€™ claims that Nagai was killed by a stray bullet. Nagai, dressed in shorts and sandals, was clearly a foreigner and a journalist, who was carrying a video camera at the time he was shot.
â€œThe governmentâ€™s use of violence to suppress political dissent has now taken the life of a journalist,â€ said Joel Simon CPJâ€™s executive director. â€œThe apparently cold-blooded killing of Kenji Nagai by Burmese government troops cannot go unaddressed. We call on the government to ensure the safety of all journalists covering this unrest.â€
Nagai, 50, who was working for APF News, a video and photo agency based in Tokyo, was one of at least nine people killed by government troops during anti-government demonstrations yesterday, according to official state-run television. Another 11 demonstrators and 31 security force members were injured, the broadcast said.
Even before the video surfaced, the Japanese government lodged a formal protest with the Burmese government and sent a senior diplomat to the capital to seek clarification of Nagaiâ€™s death. And as the anti-government demonstrations continue, a special United Nations envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, will go to Burma to try to convince the military government to end the violence and negotiate with pro-democracy leaders.
As the violence and confrontations continue, the government has increasingly clamped down on Internet communications inside and out of the country. On Friday, all Internet connections were severed, according to Burmese exiles. With Burma largely closed to international journalists and the Burmese media heavily controlled by the government, much of the coverage of the past weeksâ€™ demonstrations had been reported by bloggers and Web sites run by exiles."
The protests in Rangoon coincided with the annual General Assembly meeting at the UN, when world leaders gather in New York. Events in Burma dominated talks. America announced that it was tightening sanctions against the regime, and similar moves are under way by the EU. France under President Sarkozy has been particularly tough. Gordon Brown and David Miliband have also spoken out…."
*Setting aside their emotion on seeing a courageous journalist, Japanese photographer and video reporter Kenji Nagai, gunned down on the streets of Rangoon, Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association today called on Japanâ€™s new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, to impose sanctions on the Burmese military regime until those responsible for his murder are brought to trial.
“How could your government agree to support and financially aid a regime that murders a Japanese citizen with complete impunity?” the two organisations asked. "We call on you to freeze your aid and impose sanctions on the military regime in order to obtain a proper investigation and the trial of those responsible, including the officers who gave the orders to fire on civilians and on Nagai. If this is not done, the security forces will continue to crack down on monks and civilians.
The Japanese TV station Fuji yesterday broadcast damning footage show how Nagai, who worked for the APF News agency, was killed. His video camera in his hand, he was shot at point-blank rage by a Burmese soldier.
A Japanese embassy doctor said Nagai was killed by a bullet to the heart that entered through his chest, which confirms that he was shot head on.
The broadcasting of the footage of his death has stunned the Japanese public and increased the anger against Burmaâ€™s military government, especially as the Burmese authorities had claimed that Nagai was killed by a stray bullet. This was clearly just one more lie to add to all those about the number of civilian victims, the number of demonstrators and the reason the Internet went down in Burma.
Prime Minister Fukuda yesterday said Japan would ask the Burmese government for an explanation of Nagaiâ€™s death but he ruled out imposing sanctions. A senior foreign ministry official is to be sent to Rangoon.
Nagai had worked in many countries at war, and always paid a particular attention to the fate of the civilian population.
This is not the first time that a journalist has been killed in Burma by the military. A Burmese photo-reporter was killed during an attack by regime thugs on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâ€™s motorcade in May 2003.*
Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.
“Photographer Kenji Nagai was shot by a soldier who was several meters away while he was filming an antigovernment demonstration in Myanmar on Thursday, according to video footage aired by CNN and other media.
The footage shows Nagai falling down in a street near Shwedagon Pagoda in central Yangon after being shot by a soldier who jumped from a military vehicle. Nagai was holding a video camera in his right hand that was pointed at demonstrators running away from charging police and military officials.
In the video, a soldier passes by Nagai, who was moving his arms slightly, and chases after the demonstrators.
Nagai, 50, was a freelance photographer on contract with APF News Inc.
Myanmar’s military rulers are on full alert, particularly in the area where Nagai was killed, as it is the scene of frequent demonstrations. It is being patrolled by specially trained elite units.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar junta described foreign media as being evil. It has begun to reject visa applications from journalists and is stepping up surveillance of media already in the country."
“Putting a human face to the many Thousands that Stand Up for the Right to Free Speech, Humanity, …[Peace,] Equal Rights, …[Racial Equality] and True Democracy.
27.09.2007 – Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) – Burmese soldiers have again fired warning shots today in an attempt to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in the country’s main city of Yangon. 9 people are dead so far!
Including world famous jouranlist Kenji Nagai who has made many documentary works including, Iraqi War by Nagai and AIDS Orphans in Thailand.
Support Burma’s pro-democracy movement and bring the murderers of this journalist to justice!"
Kenji Nagai, a Japanese photographer, was shot dead in the streets of Rangoon
BANGKOK, Sept. 30 â€” A United Nations envoy to Myanmar met Sunday with the detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and with several members of the military junta that last week crushed a peaceful pro-democracy uprising, the United Nations said.
The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, spent more than an hour at a government guesthouse in the main city, Yangon, with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years. He spent Saturday and Sunday nights in the administrative capital, Naypyidaw, 200 miles north of Yangon, where he met with government officials but not the top two leaders.
Soldiers patrolled the quiet streets of Yangon on Sunday after days of the militaryâ€™s violent crackdown on demonstrations, led by Buddhist monks, that had grown over more than a week to as many as 100,000 people.
More arrests were reported overnight and hundreds of monks remained in detention after leading the biggest challenge to the junta since it took power 19 years ago. Human rights groups and diplomats said the death toll was far higher than the 10 reported by the junta.
At least four local journalists, including Min Zaw, the Burmese correspondent for the Japanese daily Tokyo Shimbun, have been arrested, and several others are missing and presumed arrested, news media organizations said.
About 10 Burmese reporters have been physically attacked or prevented from working, including reporters for the foreign news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse, according to Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association.
â€œThe crackdown appears to have terrified people enough to stay out of the streets,â€ said the chief representative of the United States in Myanmar, Shari Villarosa. She said that some monasteries appeared to be deserted Sunday and that â€œone can only wonder what has happened to all the monks.â€
Ms. Villarosa said the military must now seek a peaceful resolution through a dialogue with the opposition â€œrather than just relying on gunfire, which has succeeded in clearing the streets but does not address the underlying grievances of the people.â€
Mr. Gambari traveled to Myanmar as the representative of a world that has watched in outrage as a military government that has ruled through force ordered troops to fire into crowds of demonstrators.
Some analysts doubted that the visit could have a significant effect on a ruling clique that has resisted all international efforts to modify its behavior.
Visits by United Nations envoys have failed to bring reconciliation between the junta and the opposition or secure the release of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Gambari visited her a year ago, the last time she had been seen by any senior foreign diplomat.
â€œReconciliation is now farther away than ever from reality,â€ said Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst who is based in Thailand. â€œThe militaryâ€™s violent response took the lid off the anger and pent-up frustration that has accumulated over the past 19 years and it will be difficult for the military administration to put things back in order.â€
Analysts said a key to modifying Myanmarâ€™s behavior would be pressure from China, its main trading partner and its political buffer between the outside world.
On Saturday, Chinaâ€™s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, said China was â€œvery much concerned about the current situation.â€ He urged all parties in Myanmar to â€œuse peaceful means to restore its stability as soon as possible.â€
But there was no indication that China would join efforts to boycott or sanction Myanmar.
On Sunday, a senior Japanese official headed to Myanmar to protest the shooting death of a Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, 50, as he covered a military assault on protesters.
His killing drew outrage in Japan, which is Myanmarâ€™s largest aid donor, giving about $25 million last year. But Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said he would refrain for now from withdrawing aid or taking other steps.
Video of the shooting, posted on YouTube, shows a helmeted soldier running up behind Mr. Nagai and apparently pushing him to the ground before shooting him and running on. Mr. Nagai then momentarily raised his arms, camera in hand, and then lay still.
Several days ago, the authorities shut down access to the Internet, and the police reportedly began to search pedestrians and to confiscate cameras in a continuing effort to halt the flow of video images and photographs.
The United Nationsâ€™ World Food Program reported that it had received assurances that it could resume delivering aid to hundreds of thousands of people who had been cut off by government restrictions on transportation."
“TNew York, October 4, 2007â€” The Committee to Protect Journalists is increasingly concerned about the welfare of at least three Burmese reporters who went missing during the governmentâ€™s crackdown on street protesters last week. A fourth reporter, Tokyo Shimbunâ€™s Min Zin, was released from government custody on Wednesday. CPJ calls on the Burmese authorities to immediately release all journalists they are holding.
CPJ is investigating whether the three missing journalists were detained when the government rounded up more than 1,000 people in its crackdown on street protests. The three are Kyaw Zeya Tun from The Voice journal, Nay Lin Aung from the Seven Day News journal, and an unidentified journalist from the Weekly Eleven News journal.
â€œWhile we welcome the release of Min Zin, he never should have been detained in the first place,â€ said Joel Simon, CPJâ€™s executive director, â€œCPJ calls on the Burmese authorities to properly account for and immediately release any other journalists in detention.â€
According to news reports, a military official brought Min Zin back to his home in Rangoon on Wednesday. He had been held in detention for six days and was questioned about a trip that Koji Hirata, Tokyo Shimbunâ€™s Bangkok-based bureau chief, made to Rangoon on September 24 to cover the anti-government protests. Hirata was forced to leave the country on September 26 after government officials tracked him down at his hotel.
It was unclear if authorities intend to press charges against Min Zin, who is a Burmese national. He suffers from a diabetic condition and requires treatment for an ulcer that was aggravated in detention, according to his wife, who was quoted in news reports.
Before last weekâ€™s crackdown, there were at least six journalists imprisoned in Burma, according to CPJ research. In recent weeks, plainclothes agents have physically harassed and intimidated reporters trying to cover anti-government street demonstrations.
Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, 50, who was working for Tokyo-based video and photo agency APF News, was killed when troops opened fire on crowds on Thursday. Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said yesterday that Japan was preparing to suspend certain financial assistance to Burma in protest."
Japanese television is airing a video that shows a Burmese soldier firing at a Japanese journalist during Thursday’s pro-democracy protests in Rangoon.
Pictures broadcast by the Fuji television network show a soldier pointing his rifle and shooting from close range. Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai was thrown to the ground, apparently shot in the chest. Later photographs of the scene indicate the 50-year-old man died there a short time later.
Burmese authorities originally said the Japanese victim was hit by a stray bullet. However, analysts who studied the video obtained by the Japanese network, from the Democratic Voice of Burma, say the pictures squarely contradict the official version of events.
Japan’s authorities have sent a senior diplomat to Burma to press for a full explanation of Nagai’s death.
The pictures seen in Japan also have been posted on the Internet on YouTube.
They show Burmese soldiers chasing protesters on Thursday near Rangoon’s Sule Pagoda. Nagai, who had been filming the scene at the edge of the crowd, is suddenly thrown to the ground from a sidewalk at the sound of a bang. Lying on his back, apparently wounded and unable to get up, the journalist moves his arms up and down, still gripping a video camera in his hand, while a soldier points a rifle at him at point-blank range.
Nagai worked for the Japanese photo and video agency APF.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Except for authoritarian China and its totalitarian vassal, North Korea, governments and citizens across Asia have thrown their full support behind the mass protests led by Burma’s Buddhist monks and have condemned the bloody reaction of the military junta led by Senior General Than Shwe. The protests aim to end decades of military rule and worsening poverty.
Beijing’s relationship with the rogue state—one of the world’s most isolated nations—is another example of China’s energy diplomacy: its big, state-run energy companies are considering plans to build oil and gas pipelines across Burma.
*In this country, no doubt like in others, news about demonstrating monks in Myanmar has been reduced to a trickle, though here and there word leaks out of additional protests against military rule, and these reports find their way into the back pages of the newspapers.
But even at a trickle, that news ought to stir deep feelings in the United States, whose experience of Buddhist uprisings in Southeast Asia is rich, bitter and instructive.
Iâ€™m talking, of course, about the memory of Buddhist uprisings in South Vietnam that the Buddhist uprising in Myanmar inspires, the uprisings of the 1960s that powerfully unsettled public opinion and profoundly altered the politics of Vietnam.
Thereâ€™s a lesson in the comparison between these two Buddhist entries into politics, and itâ€™s not just about the politics of democracy in a dictatorship. The lesson resides in the fact that the news from Myanmar, which used to be called Burma, has been reduced to the aforementioned trickle, while, 40 and more years ago, the news from Vietnam exploded day after day in the headlines, thereby stirring the conscience of the world.
Or, put more accurately, they stirred the conscience of that part of the world that had a conscience to stir, and therein lies the lesson of the struggle in Myanmar. It has to do with the comparative advantage enjoyed by dictatorships in being able to stifle the flow of information, even in these days of electronic globalization.
The paradox is that protests are most effective in those places where there is actually less to protest about, and less effective where repression is so powerful that protest, especially the peaceful variety, has little effect.
Anybody old enough to remember the Vietnam War will remember that day in 1963: it was June 11 when newspapers around the world carried the shocking image of a 73 year-old monk named Thich Quang Duc sitting in the middle of a Saigon street and maintaining his rigidly erect lotus position even while his body was engulfed in flames.
It was an image that changed the United States and Vietnam forever, a stunning, shocking and, in its way, sublime protest against the heavy-handedness and tyrannical capriciousness of the regime led by Ngo Dinh Diem being supported with the blood of young American men. Among its consequences was the American decision a few months later to engineer a coup leading to Diemâ€™s assassination, though the Buddhists continued to protest against later regimes as well, contributing to those governmentsâ€™ weakness and instability.
A self-immolation that nobody knew about would have no effect, of course, but in South Vietnam a young American reporter for The Associated Press, Malcolm Browne, was on the scene that day, snapping away with the camera he always carried with him, winning a Pulitzer Prize and changing the course of history.
We know from William Prochnauâ€™s excellent book of 1995, â€œOnce Upon a Distant War,â€ that Mr. Browne was present at that historic moment because he had been tipped off in advance by the Buddhistsâ€™ clever and skillful press relations representative.
There have been, as far as we know, no self-immolations in Myanmar during the recent round of protests there, but what if there had been? Maybe there would have been photos of it, as there were of some other events, notably the killing by the army of a Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, that was flashed around the world on the Internet.
But no latter-day Malcolm Browne was in Myanmar during the recent protests, and thatâ€™s because the ruling junta has long barred most reporters from entering the country, even when conditions are more or less normal. The shooting of Mr. Nagai, in this sense, had both a symbolic and practical importance.
Moreover, after a few days, during which amateur photographers were able to put images of the Buddhist protest on the Web, the junta simply turning off the Internet. Since then there have been no more photos, and very little news.
In other words, Myanmarâ€™s dictators quickly learned the lesson of the hazards of openness, and itâ€™s a lesson whose importance is demonstrated over and over again. In his essay on Gandhi, George Orwell argued strenuously against Gandhiâ€™s contention that his method of nonviolent resistance would be effective everyplace, including in Stalinâ€™s Soviet Union and Hitlerâ€™s Germany.
Operating brilliantly and bravely in the British context, trailed by reporters wherever he went, photographed by Margaret Bourke-White, Gandhi was able to move the British public, so that every time the government put him in prison, he gained a million more sympathizers in London and Liverpool.
But as Orwell pointed out, had there been a Soviet Gandhi, he would have been shot in the basement of Moscowâ€™s Lubyanka prison long before anybody in the outside world had heard of him.
â€œThe important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity,â€ Orwell wrote. Gandhi â€œbelieved in â€˜arousing the world,â€™ which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing.â€
The first thing a dictatorship does therefore is try to prevent the world from having that chance, though it doesnâ€™t always succeed. When China, for example, opened up economically, it had to allow journalists into the country, and it paid a price for that when thousands of reporters were on hand to witness the crackdown on the Tiananmen protest movement in 1989.
But China still systematically prevents journalists from doing first-hand reporting in Tibet, with the result that its own repression of Buddhists there took place and takes place largely hidden from outside view.
In a way this is an argument in favor of engagement with dictatorships, since shunning them in a way plays into their hands. It makes it so much easier for them to keep their dirty deeds secret.
And thatâ€™s the difference between the Buddhist protests of four decades ago in Vietnam and those in Myanmar today. For Diem, tyrannical as he was, the presence of American reporters on June 11, 1963, was the price he paid for the American protection he needed, and, try as he did, he wasnâ€™t able to keep anything under wraps for very long.
The junta in Myanmar understands that all too well*.