A group of activists hold up placards with the image of Japanese journalist Toru Kubota, who was detained in Myanmar, during a rally in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo in July 2022. On October 6, 2022, a Myanmar court sentenced Kubota to 10 years in prison on two charges. (AFP/Philip Fong)

CPJ condemns harsh prison sentence for Japanese journalist Toru Kubota in Myanmar

New York, October 6, 2022 — In response to news reports that a Myanmar court on Thursday sentenced Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota to 10 years in prison on two charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for his release:

“The harsh prison sentence against Japanese journalist Toru Kubota is outrageous, and he must be released immediately,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Frankfurt, Germany. “Journalists are not criminals. Myanmar’s junta should not be fearful of journalists by locking them up.”

Kubota, a freelance filmmaker who has contributed to international media outlets including Vice Japan, the BBC, and Al-Jazeera English, was sentenced to seven years for violating the electronic transactions law and three years for incitement, according to a report by the Associated Press that cites a statement from the junta. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

Authorities arrested Kubota on July 30 while he filmed a small protest in Myanmar’s commercial capital of Yangon. Kubota faces another charge of violating immigration law.

Myanmar was the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists in 2021, according to CPJ’s December 1 prison census. Several journalists have been jailed for incitement, an anti-state charge that Myanmar’s military regime has used broadly to stifle independent news reporting since staging a coup in 2021.