Yangon, (24th March, 2021, 08:40 pm)(AFP/APP):A Polish photojournalist arrested in Myanmar while covering anti-coup protests was released Wednesday after a 13-day detention and is set to be deported, he said Wednesday.
Robert Bociaga was arrested in Shan State on March 11 while he was shooting an anti-coup demonstration, and images of him being surrounding by the military were shared widely.
After 13 days in prison, he was told to pay a fine of 200,000 Myanmar kyat ($140) and was released, he told AFP Wednesday evening, after arriving in Yangon in preparation for deportation on Thursday morning.
“I am okay. I am very happy to be out, but I am sad to leave Myanmar,” he said, adding that immigration officers were following him before his flight.
Bociaga’s release comes the same day that a Yangon prison freed more than 600 people jailed in anti-coup unrest — including Associated Press photographer Thein Zaw, whose charges were dropped.
While Bociaga had covered dozens of protests all over Shan State since the February 1 coup, he was wearing a face mask on the day he was arrested.
“(The soldiers) didn’t recognise me as a foreigner — they started hitting me with their plastic batons,” he said.
Once he was taken to the police station, Bociaga was told that since he wasn’t on a media visa, he should “only photograph pagodas and the mountains.”
The 29-year-old photojournalist — who has been published by CNN and German newswire Deutsche Welle — also said he was treated well by the police compared to the locals.
“I was giving my testimonies while sitting on the chair — the other people were kneeling down with their hands folded on their heads,” he said.
Bociaga told AFP the anti-coup protesters were simply trying to make their voices heard.
“They are risking their lives to show to the world and the military government that they don’t accept the coup,” he said. “The prisons are getting filled with Myanmar people.”
Since the coup, more than 270 people have been killed, according to a local monitoring group, which also had reported before Wednesday’s prisoner release that some 2,400 people have been detained.
The military has a far lower death toll at 164, and a junta spokesman branded the victims as “violent terrorist people” at a Tuesday news conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
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