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Myanmar police detain Japanese journalist at Yangon protest, colleague says

TOKYO (Reuters) - Myanmar police detained a Japanese freelance journalist at a protest in the commercial capital of Yangon on Friday, one of his colleagues said, the first detention of a foreign reporter since a military coup on Feb. 1.

Yuki Kitazumi runs a media production company, Yangon Media Professionals, and used to be a journalist with the Nikkei business daily, according to his Facebook page and interviews with online media.

“I didn’t witness it, but I received a message from him via Messenger app around 11:30 that he got arrested,” Kitazumi’s Myanmar colleague, Linn Nyan Htun, told Reuters by telephone.

“I’ve got in touch with him - he can use his phone and he said he is safe and not injured. He is at the Sanchaung police station.”

Japan’s government said a Japanese national in his 40s had been detained by Myanmar security police in Yangon, but did not provide further details.

Police in Myanmar did not immediately return calls to seek comment. Kitazumi’s phone, listed on his company’s website, was unreachable.

Myanmar has been roiled by protests for weeks since the army seized power from elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and detained her and most of her government.

Kitazumi is the second foreigner known to have been detained since the coup, after Australian academic Sean Turnell, an adviser to Suu Kyi on economic reforms, was arrested on Feb. 6.

Kitazumi’s arrest rekindled memories of another Japanese journalist covering protests in Myanmar, Kenji Nagai, who at 50 was shot dead at point-blank range in 2007, when the army opened fire on protesters during monk-led Saffron Revolution protests.

RAISING VOICES

Kitazumi’s company produces video content, from news to movie trailers, and trains journalists with emphasis on free speech, his company says on its website.

Linn Nyan Htun also told Reuters Kitazumi used to write political and business news for major Japanese news media.

“When I listen to the young people taking part in the demonstrations, they say ‘Yes, I’m scared, but if we don’t raise our voices to say that we’re scared, we’ll have to live in fear our entire lives,’” Kitazumi said in a recent Facebook post.

Kitazumi is as a member of Kaigai Kakibito Club, a group of Japanese journalists and interpreters working overseas.

The club’s blog carried an interview with Kitazumi in July in which he said he also directed a short comedy film called “One bowl of Mohinga,” a traditional breakfast dish in Myanmar.

Kitazumi has also had parts in movies in Myanmar, the blog said, posting a picture of him acting.

He told the blog he moved to Myanmar to cover the 2015 general elections, Myanmar’s first free polls in decades, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party in a landslide.

Kitazumi left the Nikkei in 2012 after having worked as a reporter from 2001, a representative of the paper said.

“Amidst the fear that this kind of thing is happening and this kind of thing could happen to them, people are raising their voices,” said Kitazumi, posting a video of an arrest of a woman on Facebook.

“They’re fighting today so that this kind of thing won’t happen again, so they can live a future of peace.”

Writing by Poppy McPherson and Antoni Slodkowski; Reporting by Reuters staff and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; Editing by Neil Fullick, Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie

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