Off TV screen, 28 September 2007
As reported on the BBC and many other major news outlets, (at least) nine people (at least) were killed in the city of Rangoon, Burma, on 28 September 2007. Among them was a Japanese video journalist, Mr Kenji Nagai.
Mr Nagai is a well-known war/conflict reporter for 20 or more years. He's been working for the APF News, a Japanese independent news service. I've seen quite a few reports by him - Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine among others - on various news shows.
He was with the Northern Aliance in November or December 2001. He was at the Firdus Square on 9 April 2003, when the statue was toppled. He was at a Baghdad hospital. He showed us shrapnels, bomblets, rubbles, torn photos and so on. He showed us how children smiled to his camera. He was on a Hamas patrol truck in 2006 (or 2007, before things deteriorated). He visited the beach right after seven members of a picnicking familiy were killed in June 2006. I clearly remember when a local man showed the journalist what was inside of a plastic bag he was holding - it was parts of a human body. Apparently shocked, he kept on reporting, surrounded by local men: "This is where one eye was found."
Honestly I don't know what to write.
The Burmese junta told the Japanese government that the journalist was on a tourist visa (which means, a journalist can not get a work visa), and that he was killed after he got hit by a stray bullet. Rubbish. Some footages from across the road clearly show Mr Nagai was knocked down to the ground by a soldier, and then, he was shot, possibly from the back. According to reports, the bullet went through his heart and he was killed almost instantly.
When he was shot down, Mr Nagai was still concious. He tried to hold his videocam up toward the fleeing crowd - just for a few seconds. An NHK report said the Japanese Embassy has his camera, so I hope we can see what happened to him very soon.
This must not happen. This must not happen anywhere on the earth, to anybody. But this happened to nine people. Nine f***** people. And I only hear one name. Where are other eight names? Where are they?
I can't believe the news today
I can't close my eyes and make it go away.
How long, how long must we sing this song?
How long, how long?
We can be as one, tonight.
And it's true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality.
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die.
-- U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday (1982)
a news clip (a Japanese TV news):
The first two minutes show the footage which quite clearly shows how he got shot. The man with a walking stick @ 02:10 is his father (aged 80 or so). He says this is too cruel and he would like to protest to the Burmese government. The lady @ 02:20 is Mr Nagai's sister. Then they shows a map of the area (Thailand and Burma). Mr Nagai flew into Burma on the 25th. Then, a footage from the 26th, when the forces opened fire. @03:31, his reports over the telephone. "They say there is going to be a huge demonstration on the 27th. That is tomorrow, and I feel something terrible could happen." @04:23 is an archive photo of him visiting Palestine. @04:30 begins the footage and report on the 28th. (I'm not sure if the footage is Mr Nagai's or not.) This was the last contact. After this telephone contact, the forces used tear gas at the Sule Pagota. @05:08, the Japanese chief cabinet secretary explains some facts: the bullet, entering from his lower chest, went through his heart. Then, again, the footage of the moment. @06:35 is the office of the APF news agency. The man with glasses is Mr Yamaji, his colleage and the boss of the agency. @07:00 starts archive footage. Mr Nagai was the reporter how Saddam's statue was pulled down. @07:30, his report from Palestine, which Mr Yamaji says shows the essence of his report - the Hamas patrol and the beach. And the hospital. @08:30, the Burmese state TV reports the unrest without any footage. The newsreader says among the nine people killed on 28th was a Japanese journalist who was on a tourist visa named Kenji Nagai. He was hit with a bullet when he was with the crowd and was doing some video-shoot. "This is as if it was an accident caused by a stray bullet," notes the Japanese news. @09:15, ASEAN foreign ministers' statement demanding the Burmese government to stop the use of force against civillians. "The United Nations will send an envoy on Saturday, and the Japanese government will send Mr Yabunaka, a top diplomat, on Sunday."
Visit Ko htike's blog (based in London, according to the UK newspapers). Apparently now I know the face of another victim. He looks painfully young. It looks like he was shot in the neck. The picture seems to be originally posted on DVB.
UPDATE (Sat 29 September 2007):
His colleague, Mr Toru Yamaji of the APF News, left Tokyo this morning for Bangkok, arriving in Burma tonight. He had a trouble in getting a visa but after the Japanese FO pushed, he got it sorted. He is going to recover the body of Nagai and his belongings, particularly a video camera Nagai was using at his last gasp. He is going to stay in Burma for several days. In an TV interview he said he still can't believe Nagai's death but that he would know it's real the moment he meets Mr Nagai at the hospital.
I'm hoping the footage will be broadcast after Mr Yamaji gets it. Mr Nagai was on a contract with Mr Yamaji's news agency when he was filming it. I'm doing this (writing about Mr Nagai) partly because I don't want the footage to be buried.
UPDATE (Sun 30 September 2007):
ABS-CBN News has an excellent article (by the Agence France Presse) in Engish about Mr Kenji Nagai.
Mr Yamaji from the APF News safely arrived in Rangoon last night and identified the body at the morgue. The Daily Yomiuri reports that he "silently looked at Nagai's body for 10 minutes and seemed to be trying to suppress his sorrow over Nagai's death."
Rest In Peace, Nagai-san. I will never forget your reports and will keep doing what I can do.
The same article also says that Mr Yamaji will search for the videotape in the camera the slain journalist held at his last moment. That is, the camera has been taken away. A TV news I'm watching now briefly reports Mr Yamaji was handed Nagai's personal belongings, but he did not find his camera. I wish him best of luck in obtaining the tape.
According to a Yomiuri newspaper report in Japanese, a Burmese doctor carried out a post mortem told Mr Yamaji that the bullet went in from the left-side of his back to the lower right-side of his chest. So he was shot in the back, as we saw in the footages. He was shot at a close range (about one meter), and died almost instantly. Don't forget this: at first he was reported to have been "hit with a stray bullet". As I don't understand the Burmese language and I can never know for sure (I've read the translated news articles and TV news subtitles), but their state TV reported something like "the troops fired, and the Japanese journalist was killed while videotaping the demonstration."
Meanwhile, Mr Yabunaka, a senior foreign officer, has left Tokyo for Rangoon to probe the killing. "Yabunaka was seeking to meet with Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo and other Myanmar leaders during his three-day visit to Yangon, the foreign ministry said."
I am currently updating all the news I hear at another post because this page is getting quite long:
Please read the description and comments over there for a more updated information. Thanks.