Police are seen in Yangon, Myanmar, on April 12, 2021. Military authorities recently detained Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi. (AFP)

Myanmar authorities detain Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi on fake news allegation

Bangkok, April 19, 2021 – Myanmar authorities should immediately release Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi and drop any pending charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday evening, military authorities arrested Kitazumi, a freelance journalist who runs the Yangon Media Professionals media production company, at his home in Yangon, according to news reports.

A Japanese Embassy official quoted in those reports said Kitazumi was arrested on the suspicion of spreading “fake news,” and that embassy officials have been unable to visit him in detention.

Article 505(a) of Myanmar’s penal code, a broad criminal provision that criminalizes the dissemination of information or “fake news” that could agitate or cause security forces or officials to mutiny, allows for maximum three-year prison penalties for convictions.

“Myanmar authorities should immediately release journalist Yuki Kitazumi and drop any pending ‘fake news’ charges against him,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar’s ruling junta must stop treating journalists like criminals, and should release all journalists still in government custody.”

Today, authorities moved Kitazumi from a Yangon police facility to the city’s Insein prison, where the military regime is holding political prisoners including journalists, according to those reports.

Yangon Media Professionals is a Yangon-based media company that produces print and video news, according to the company’s website; it also runs the My Voice YouTube channel, which has about 2,000 subscribers and has recently posted coverage of protests against the country’s military takeover.

Previously, authorities detained and released Kitazumi while he was covering protests on February 26, news reports said.

CPJ emailed the Ministry of Information for comment, but did not receive an immediate reply.

On April 6, CPJ addressed a public letter to junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing calling on his regime to release all journalists detained in the wake of his February 1 coup.