Bangkok, August 5, 2022 – Myanmar authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota and drop all charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On July 30, authorities arrested Kubota, a freelance filmmaker who contributes to international media outlets, while he filmed a small protest in the commercial capital of Yangon, according to multiple news reports.
Authorities accuse him of violating the country’s immigration laws and encouraging dissent against the military junta regime, according to those reports. The immigration violation carries a prison term of up to five years, and dissent carries up to three years, according to Reuters and CPJ research.
Kubota entered Myanmar on a tourist visa on July 1, according to an official statement quoted in that Reuters report.
Authorities moved Kubota to Yangon’s Insein Prison on the afternoon of Thursday, August 4, according to a Yangon-based journalist familiar with the situation who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
“Myanmar’s detention of Japanese journalist Toru Kubota shows that the military regime will stop at nothing to suppress independent news reporting,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Kobuta must be freed immediately and any charges pending against him should be dropped without delay. Myanmar’s junta must stop treating journalists as criminals.”
Kubota’s personal website shows he has contributed documentary news reports to Yahoo! News Japan, Vice Japan, the BBC, and Al-Jazeera English, among others. The website says his reporting focuses on ethnic conflicts, immigration, and refugee issues.
CPJ emailed Myanmar’s Ministry of Information and the Japanese Embassy in Yangon for comment, but did not receive any replies.
Kubota is at least the fifth foreign journalist to be detained in Myanmar since last year’s coup. Authorities previously detained U.S. nationals Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Polish reporter Robert Bociaga, and Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi, all of whom were eventually freed and deported, according to news reports and CPJ reporting.