Myanmar releases AFP journalist after sneaking into country

November 9th, 2010 - 6:27 pm ICT by BNO News  

NAYPYIDAW (BNO NEWS) — A Japanese journalist working for the AFP news agency was released from custody in Myanmar (Burma) on Tuesday, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The Kyodo news agency reported that Japanese journalist Toru Yamaji was released from custody in Myanmar on Tuesday, two days after being detained for illegally entering the country. Other details were not immediately available.

Yamaji was arrested on Sunday on the country’s eastern border with Thailand in an attempt to cover the country’s first elections in two decades. He was flown to the capital of Naypyidaw after being detained.

Japan’s Asahi newspaper quoted Japanese embassy officials as saying that Yamaji crossed into Myanmar by boat along a river on the border with Thailand.

It was not immediately clear if Yamaji was released without charges, and if he was free to leave the country. Media reports had earlier indicated that the journalist had been charged under Section 13 (1) of the Immigration Act (Emergency Provisions). This charge is punishable by two years in prison, if convicted.

Rights organizations had earlier appealed to authorities in Myanmar to release the reporter, who works for the AFP news agency. “Toru Yamaji should be released immediately and allowed to continue covering Burma’s elections,” said Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “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.”

Myanmar’s elections on Sunday were internationally condemned as being a fraud as thousands of political opponents remain in prison. Journalists and human rights group were also barred from covering the election.

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