Myanmar: Journalists detained and imprisoned for protest coverage

Working journalists in Myanmar continue to face growing security and safety threats, with one journalist imprisoned and another detained on July 29 and 30 respectively for covering ongoing insurgencies in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the military junta’s crackdown on press freedom and calls on authorities to protect the safety of journalists across Myanmar.

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

On Friday 29 July, freelance journalist Maung Maung Myo was sentenced to six years in prison for the possession of images and interviews with members of several insurgent groups fighting Myanmar’s military government, a violation of Section 52(a) of the nation’s Counter Terrorism Law. Maung Maung Myo was arrested earlier this year while travelling from Myawaddy Town in southeastern Myanmar to Mandalay.

Maung Maung Myo had been working for Mekong News Agency since 2020, reporting on a range of local news stories, including the Covid-19 pandemic, anti-coup protests, and clashes between the military and resistance movements.

In a separate incident on Saturday July 30, authorities arrested and detained Tokyo-based video journalist, Toru Kubota, while filming a flash protest in Yangon. Kubota’s work focused on providing a platform for the voices of marginalised groups, particularly Rohingya refugees.

Supporters of Kubota have demanded his immediate release and an online petition has received over 41,000 signatures to date. Japanese embassy officials have also called for Kubota’s release.

Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist to be arrested in Myanmar since the military coup in February 2021. In 2021, authorities arrested two US journalists, Nathan Maung, editor-in-chief of Kamayut media, and Danny Fenster, managing editor of Frontier Myanmar.

Maung was later released on 15 June 2021, while Fenster was sentenced to 11 years in prison before being ‘pardoned’ by Myanmar’s military government.

Another Japanese journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, was also detained in Yangon on 18 April 2021 for allegedly spreading fake news, but was released on 14 May 2021. Myanmar’s authorities have arrested at least 135 journalists since February 2021.

The IFJ said: “Continued detainment and attacks against journalists demonstrate a grave decline in press freedom in Myanmar. The IFJ urges Myanmar’s military junta to end its ongoing persecution of the media and release all journalists and media workers currently detained.”

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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