Japanese filmmaker sentenced to ten years jail by Myanmar court

    A group of activists hold placards of Japanese citizen Toru Kubota, who is detained in Myanmar, during a rally in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo on July 31, 2022.

    A Japanese documentary filmmaker has been sentenced to a total of ten years in jail by a court in Myanmar.

    Toru Kubota, 26, was first detained in July near an anti-government rally in the capital Yangon.

    He was sentenced to three years on sedition charges and seven years for violating an electronic communications law. It’s not clear if he will be able to serve these concurrently.

    He faces another charge of breaking an immigration law next week.

    According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, the Myanmar junta claims Kubota entered Myanmar from neighbouring Thailand using a tourist visa, and that he had participated in anti-government demonstrations in 2021.

    They also said that he had previously reported on the Rohingya minority.

    Kubota, who first arrived in Myanmar in July, was filming a “documentary featuring a Myanmar person”, a friend of his was reported to have said earlier this year.

    According to filmmaker site Film Freeway, Kubota started his career when he met a Rohingya refugee in Japan in 2014, and subsequently made “several films about refugees and ethnic issues in Myanmar”.

    His Instagram profile also features several pictures of Rohingya refugees from as far back as 2017.

    “Myanmar’s detention of Japanese journalist Toru Kubota shows that the military regime will stop at nothing to suppress independent news reporting,” Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ senior Southeast Asia representative said earlier this year.

    “Myanmar’s junta must stop treating journalists as criminals.”

    Earlier last year, a Japanese freelance journalist was also arrested and charged with spreading false news – the first foreign journalist known to be charged since the military took power in February 2021.

    He was later released, with Myanmar authorities maintaining he had violated the law but saying they were releasing him at the request of the Japanese government.

    It’s estimated more than 15,600 people, including lawmakers, activists and journalists – have been arrested since the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in February 2021.

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