News

May 5, 2021

Japanese reporter held in Myanmar is charged with “false information”

Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi raises his hands as he is escorted by police upon arrival at the Myaynigone police station in Sanchaung Township in Yangon, on the occasion of his first arrest on 26 February 2021 (AP file photo).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Japan to take advantage of its privileged relationship with Myanmar’s military government to press for the immediate release of Yuki Kitazumi, a Yangon-based Japanese freelance reporter who has been held for the past two and a half weeks and has just been formally charged.

Arrested on 18 April, Yuki Kitazumi was placed in provisional detention the next day and has been held ever since in Insein prison, a jail with notoriously appalling conditions that is located in a Yangon suburb. He was previously detained briefly on 26 February, as RSF reported at the time.

 

Kitazumi was charged on 3 May with “false information,” according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo, quoting a Japanese embassy official in Myanmar. Although the charge mentions no specific law, he was probably charged under article 505 (A) of the penal code.

 

This article says it is a crime to “publish or circulate any statement, rumour or report” with “intent to cause or which is likely to cause any [member of the armed forces] to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such.”

 

“The ‘false information’ charge brought against Yuki Kitazumi is all the more disturbing for being formulated in a particularly vague manner and, as such, could be used by the junta to jail any reporter it doesn’t like,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We urge Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi to do everything possible to make Myanmar’s military government see reason and to obtain this journalist’s release.”

 

Source of funding

 

As one of Myanmar’s leading commercial partners, Japan has become – by force of circumstances – a major source of funding for the military junta that took power three months ago.

 

According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association For Political Prisoners (AAPP), whose figures have been independently confirmed by an RSF source, a total of 84 journalists have been arrested since the 1 February coup d’état and 50 of them were still being held yesterday.

 

At least 29 other journalists have been placed on the junta’s wanted lists – whose existence RSF reported two weeks ago – and have gone into hiding to avoid arrest on charges brought against them.

 

Myanmar is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.