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Journalists covering protest detained, questioned, released, their cameras seized

(Mizzima/IFEX) - The following is a statement from Mizzima News, an interim member of IFEX:

Police destroy camera memory cards of journalists

On 18 September 2007, Special Branch police agents held and questioned three journalists, seizing their cameras and removing at least two of their camera memory cards. The journalists were covering a demonstration by monks in Rangoon against the fuel price hike and ensuing inflation.

Two Rangoon-based Burmese journalists for the Japanese foreign news services TV Asahi and Kyoto News Agency, along with one local journalist from "The Voice Journal", were released after being interrogated by Special Branch agents.

"They were arrested as they were taking pictures of monks marching on the Ahlanpya Pagpda Road and on the bridge that lies between the Yuzana Garden Hotel and the number one State High School Dagon," an eyewitness told Mizzima.

After their interrogation by township authorities, only one of the journalists, Hla Htwe Aungc of TV Asahi, received his camera back. It was missing its memory card. Two other cameras remain in police custody.

"His camera was confiscated by a military backup group on the orders of Colonel Tint San, who is military commander of Rangoon Division number three," reported the eyewitness. The journalist was told there was "no need for the memory card and those things would be clarified later. Then they took away his camera, even though he showed his Journalist Identity Card."

Myat Thura, with the Kyoto News Agency, lost his camera after unidentified men accosted him from behind and tried to pull him up onto a vehicle. He was released after he showed his identity card to the group. His camera was not returned.

"I really do not know who took my camera. The situation is very complicated because everyone is wearing the same plain clothes. We cannot identify who are police personnel, USDA members or Swan Ahshin (special police forces)," said Hla Htwe Aung.

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