RTL Today – Obstruction of press freedom: Burmese junta accuses Japanese journalist of encouraging dissent
A Japanese journalist detained in Myanmar has been charged with breaking immigration laws and encouraging dissent against the military, the ruling junta said on Thursday.
Myanmar’s military has cracked down on press freedom since its coup last year, arresting journalists and photographers and revoking broadcasting licenses as the country descended into chaos.
Toru Kubota, detained while covering a protest in Yangon last week, “has been charged under Section 505(a) and Immigration Law 13-1”, the junta said in a statement. communicated.
505(a) – a law that criminalizes incitement to dissent against the military and which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison – has been widely used in the suppression of dissent.
Violating Immigration Law 13-1 carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Filmmaker Kubota, 26, was arrested near an anti-government rally in Yangon with two Myanmar citizens.
After the charges were filed, he was transferred from police custody to Insein prison in Yangon, a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“He is in good health and embassy officials have already visited him at the police station where he was detained.”
According to a profile on FilmFreeway, Kubota has previously made documentaries about Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority and “refugees and ethnic issues in Myanmar.”
Kubota had arrived in Myanmar on July 14 and was filming a “documentary featuring a person from Myanmar”, his friend Yoshitaka Nitta said at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.
He is the fifth foreign journalist to be detained in Myanmar, after US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Robert Bociaga from Poland and Yuki Kitazumi from Japan, all of whom were later released and deported.
Fenster, who was detained in May last year as he tried to leave the country, faced a trial behind closed doors at Insein for unlawful association, incitement to the military and violation of rules on visas.
He was sentenced to 11 years in prison before being pardoned and deported.
– ‘War on journalists’ –
“The regime has declared war on journalists, and 505a is its favorite charge,” said Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group.
“This accusation against a Japanese journalist shows that the regime is determined to continue to stifle objective reporting, whether by local or foreign journalists.”
Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that its embassy in Myanmar “appeals to the Burmese authorities for the early release of the Japanese man, and will continue to make efforts to gather information and request his early release.”
Tokyo is one of Myanmar’s biggest donors and has a long-standing relationship with the country’s military.
The already isolated junta stoked international outrage last week by announcing the execution of four prisoners, the first application of the death penalty in the country in decades.
“The situation in Burma has gone from bad to worse,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, using the country’s former name, said after talks with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell .
Blinken met Borrell on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Cambodia, from which the Burmese foreign minister has been barred due to the junta’s failure to open talks with his political opponents.
More than 2,100 people have been killed in Myanmar’s crackdown on dissent and nearly 15,000 arrested, according to a local watchdog group.
As of March this year, 48 journalists remained in detention across the country, according to monitoring group Reporting ASEAN.
Only China imprisoned more journalists than Myanmar last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.