Myanmar: Japanese video journalist sentenced to 10 years in prison

A military court has sentenced Japanese video journalist Toru Kubota to 10 years in jail for two charges on October 6 after he filmed a protest against the Myanmar junta in July. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, Minpororen (Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcast Workers’ Unions), condemn the sentencing and demand the junta release Kubota immediately.

A group of activists hold placards of Japanese citizen Toru Kubota, who is detained in Myanmar, during a rally in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo on July 31, 2022. Credit: Philip Fong / AFP

Kubota was found guilty of violating Myanmar’s electronic transactions law, with a charge of seven years in prison, as well as a further three for incitement. The journalist will also face a separate hearing on October 12 for charges of violating immigration law.

Kubota has contributed to international media outlets including the BBC, Al-Jazeera and Vice Japan and focused on providing a platform for the voices of marginalised groups, including immigrants and refugees. He was arrested and detained on July 30 while covering a protest in Yangon against military rule.

Myanmar’s draconian electronic transactions law was frequently used to prosecute journalists and human rights activists before the military coup in February 2021. The nation’s military junta has since introduced an amendment to the law that criminalises the dissemination of information through cyberspace, including any expression critical of the junta or coup.

The military also accused Kubota of disseminating false information about Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, millions of whom have fled the country due to persecution and violence.

Since the military coup, at least 142 journalists have been arrested, with 57 currently in detention, and at least 12 media outlets have been shuttered. Jailed journalists have been charged with distributing misinformation and incitement of fear, while immigration law has also been used to prosecute foreign journalists.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 2,338 pro-democracy activists and civilians have been killed since the military coup. 12,576 people are currently detained and 1,505 are serving sentences.

Minpororen said: “We do not allow the suppression of press freedom. We demand Mr Kubota’s immediate release.”

The IFJ said: “The military junta continues to heighten its efforts to restrict press freedom and freedom of expression by threatening, attacking, and detaining journalists and media workers. The IFJ urges Myanmar’s military to drop all charges against Kubota and free him immediately.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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