Myanmar detains Japanese journalist for sneaking into country

Posted Nov 9, 2010 by Subir Ghosh
A Japanese journalist has been arrested in eastern Myanmar (Burma) for illegally crossing over the border from Thailand. Toru Yamaji, who sneaked into Myanmar to cover Sunday's elections, has been charged under the country's Immigration Act.
Toru Yamaji
Toru Yamaji
APF News
Yamaji, a reporter with the APF news agency, was detained on Sunday itself in Myawaddy, on the country's eastern border with Thailand, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
APF is a Tokyo-based news organisation relaying photos and stories, including online video. In 2007, Kenji Nagai, a Japanese journalist with the agency was shot and killed in Myanmar during a failed monk-led uprising. The organisation says that it has not been able to contact Yamaji since Sunday.
Foreign journalists and observers had been banned from entering Myanmar during the elections. The junta has steadfastly refused to allow international monitors or foreign media into the country for a rare election Sunday that was widely criticised as undemocratic with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi locked up.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the immediate release of Yamaji, who has since been shifted to capital Naypyitaw. "Toru Yamaji should be released immediately and allowed to continue covering Burma's elections. Burma, which is one of the most censored countries in the world, has not allowed the foreign media to cover this election. Elections need the scrutiny of a free media to be credible," CPJ's Asia programme coordinator Bob Dietz said in a statement.
Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association too have decried the detention. “As the military junta denied foreign reporters entry to Burma, it is only natural that some tried to enter without press visas. We support Toru Yamaji’s attempt to do some reporting despite the restrictions. This episode highlights the enormous difficulties that the international media have had in covering these undemocratic elections,” the two organisations said in a statement.
The Irrawady reported that Yamaji has been charged under Section 13 (1) of the Immigration Act (Emergency Provisions), which says violators can be punished “with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or with a fine, or with both.”