A Japanese journalist arrested in Myanmar has been charged with spreading fake news, the country’s Japanese embassy has said. Yuki Kitazumi is the first foreign journalist known to be charged since the coup. He was arrested in April and has been in prison since.
More than 700 people have been killed and thousands detained, including many local journalists, since Myanmar’s military staged a coup in February.
Mr Kitazumi who was working as a freelance journalist had been reporting for many of Japan’s major news outlets, appearing as a rare foreign reporter from within Myanmar (also called Burma).
The 45-year old was arrested on 18 April when police raided his home in the country’s main city Yangon (Rangoon). He had already been briefly detained on 26 February.
The Japanese embassy in Myanmar said he showed no health problems but added they were urging the military to release him. If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison, according to Japanese media.
Aside from covering the coup and the subsequent protests and killings for Japanese newspapers and broadcasters, Mr Kitazumi had also frequently posted about the situation and its impact on citizens on his social media accounts.
Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military deposed the elected government and declared a year-long state of emergency. Throughout the months of demonstrations, authorities have cracked down on the protesters and also press freedom.
Around 80 local journalists are known to have been detained for their reporting so far. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group, 50 of them are still in detention and half of those have been prosecuted. A few foreign journalists have also been arrested.
The armed forces have justified their takeover by alleging there had been widespread fraud during a general election late last year which had returned elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party (NLD) to power. The military promised instead that it would hold “free and fair” elections once the state of emergency is over.