In Burma, concerns mount over missing journalists

New York, October 4, 2007— The Committee to Protect Journalists is increasingly concerned about the welfare of at least three Burmese reporters who went missing during the government’s crackdown on street protesters last week. A fourth reporter, Tokyo Shimbun’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. 

“While we welcome the release of Min Zin, he never should have been detained in the first place,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director, “CPJ calls on the Burmese authorities to properly account for and immediately release any other journalists in detention.”

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 Shimbun’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 week’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.