Japanese Photojournalist Gunned Down In Myanmar Protests


Photo © ReutersRANGOON, MYANMAR - Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai, 50, appeared to try to keep shooting video of panic-stricken protesters fleeing Burmese soldiers who were shooting at them, even after he was mortally shot once in the chest and fell to the ground, dying, today in Rangoon.

Nagai was one of nine people killed during the clash with soldiers and police Thursday.

The Independent in London reports that a series of photographs appear to show the photojournalist being gunned down as Burmese troops bore down on civilians and monks in the streets near Sule Pagoda in the center of the Burmese capital city.

One photograph, posted on the Web site of the Japanese television network Fuji, showed a soldier pointing his rifle down at Nagai who was lying face up on the ground, clutching a camera, Reuters says.

Reuters says the protesters started running after a burst of gunfire came from the soldiers. Nagai was working for the Japanese news agency APF News, his father said in Japan. APF News is a photo and video agency based in Tokyo. Nagai entered Myanmar two days ago, they say, on the eve of the government's crackdown on monks and protesters. He was a contract photographer for the agency.

A Reuters photograph shows Nagai still trying to photograph the fleeing protesters as they ran from soldiers even after he was shot.

Reuters photographIn New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemned the shooting and the heavy government interference and harassment of journalists who are trying to cover the unfolding political events in Burma.

“The protests in Burma are of international concern, and we call on the military government to allow journalists to report freely and without fear of reprisal on these major events,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Judging by the widespread news and video clips of recent events, we fear that the junta will resort to even greater violence as the situation in Burma grows worse.”

A loudspeaker announcement told protesters they had 10 minutes to clear the streets, The Age reports in Australia, and if they didn't leave they would be shot. Then troops marched toward the crowd after people in the crowd threw stones and water bottles at them, says The Age.

The Burma Media Association says the government cut all cell phone service at 3 p.m. local time, at the height of the conflict and during the time troops were shooting in the streets, and blocked Internet service so that journalists could not file stories and transmit photographs, the CPJ reports.

During the night raids were conducted on monasteries to arrest monks who have been leading the protests, and therefore fewer people were on the streets today in the largest uprising in the last two decades in the country. British diplomats have reported seeing evidence of "severe beatings" of monks at the Ngwe Cha Yan monastery in southern Rangoon.

Reuters photograph