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Joint Statement: Call for release of Japanese journalist, Toru Kubota, and all those detained for peaceful expression in Myanmar

Tuesday 2 August 2022 - 9:25am


PEN International
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coordinator@pen-international.org

PEN International & Japan P.E.N. Club

Update - 17 November 2022

PEN International is happy to confirm that Japanese journalist, Toru Kubota, is among those released as part of a prisoner amnesty. He should never have been detained, and PEN International continues its call for the immediate and unconditional release who remain imprisoned for their peaceful expression in Myanmar.

Update - 7 October 2022

PEN International is appalled at the military junta's decision to sentence Japanese journalist, Toru Kubota, to a potential ten years' imprisonment on two separate charges.

On 5 October, Kubota was sentenced to three years' imprisonment on incitement, and seven years' imprisonment for violating Myanmar's Electronic Transactions Law. It has yet to be confirmed whether both sentences will be served concurrently.

A further hearing is due to take place on 12 October on a further charge of violating Myanmar's Immigration Law.

PEN International believes the charges against Toru Kubota to be politically motivated and an example of the military junta's unjust use of the country's legal system to stifle peaceful expression and legitimate journalistic work.

Update - 4 August 2022

PEN International is dismayed at reports that the military junta has now brought multiple charges against Japanese journalist, Toru Kubota.

The charges include Section 505A of the Penal Code and has been routinely used to target independent journalists and critics of the regime as part of the military junta's crackdown on freedom of expression across the country. Those convicted of violating 505A face up to three years' imprisonment.

Toru Kubota has also been charged under Section 13(1) of Myanmar's 1947 Immigration Law, which can result in up to five years' imprisonment if convicted.

We continue to call for his immediate and unconditional release, along with all those unjustly detained in Myanmar for their peaceful expression.

PEN International and the Japan PEN Club are deeply concerned by the detention of Japanese video journalist, Toru Kubota, by the military junta in Myanmar. We call for his immediate and unconditional release, along with all those unjustly detained for their peaceful expression in Myanmar

According to media reports, Japanese journalist and documentary filmmaker, Toru Kubota, was detained shortly after he had filmed an anti-government rally in Yangon. The Japanese embassy in Yangon is now pressing for his release.

"We strongly call for freedom of expression in Myanmar and the immediate release of Japanese journalist Mr. Toru Kubota.

Mr. Kubota was detained during a peaceful reporting operation, and we call for his immediate and unconditional release. The ‘Junta’ recently used violence against its own citizens by executing four imprisoned activists and is also about to extend the declaration of a state of emergency across the country by six months.

We call for freedom of expression and the protection of journalists in Myanmar and abroad. And we urge the Japanese Government and the international community to take immediate action to ensure the safety of Mr. Kubota.”, said Natsuo Kirino, President of the Japan PEN Club.

Toru Kubota is one of a growing number of international journalists who have been targeted by the military junta since last year’s coup. While other detained international journalists, including Japanese filmmaker Yuuki Kitazumi, and American journalist Danny Fenster, were eventually released, almost 70 Myanmar journalists remain in various forms of detention.

Since the military junta seized power on 1 February 2021, journalists have been routinely targeted by the military junta as part of its crackdown on freedom of expression in the country, resulting in CPJ ranking Myanmar as the world’s second worst jailer of journalists in its most recent annual prison census report.

PEN International and the Japan PEN Club calls for the military junta to ensure the right to freedom of expression and we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Toru Kubota and all all others who have been wrongfully detained for their peaceful expression.

For further information please contact Ross Holder, Asia Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: ross.holder@pen-international.org