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Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota sentenced to 3 more years in Myanmar prison

October 13th, 2022  •  Author:   Committee to Protect Journalists  •  2 minute read
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A group of activists hold placards of Japanese journalist Toru Kubota during a rally in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo in July 2022. A Myanmar court sentenced Kubota to three more years in prison for allegedly violating the country’s immigration laws on October 12, 2022. (AFP/Philip Fong)   

Bangkok, October 13, 2022 — In response to multiple news reports that a Myanmar court on Wednesday sentenced Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota to three more years in prison for allegedly violating the country’s immigration laws, bringing his total incarceration term to 10 years, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for his immediate release:

“Myanmar’s latest action in adding three years to Japanese journalist Toru Kubota’s prison sentence for immigration violations is excessive, grotesque, and must be reversed,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar’s military junta is sending a deliberate and threatening message to all foreign journalists that they too could be imprisoned under arbitrary laws if they report on its crimes and abuses.”

Kubota, a freelance filmmaker who has contributed to international media outlets including Vice Japan, the BBC, and Al-Jazeera English, was sentenced last week to seven years for violating the electronic transactions law and three years for incitement, as CPJ documented. Those sentences are to be served concurrently, and Wednesday’s additional three-year sentence brings Kubota’s total prison term to 10 years, reports said.

Authorities arrested Kubota on July 30 while he filmed a small protest in Myanmar’s commercial capital of Yangon.

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 under Section 505(a) of the penal code for incitement and dissemination of false news, an anti-state charge that Myanmar’s military regime has used broadly to stifle independent news reporting since staging a coup in 2021.