Burmese authorities detained a Japanese documentary filmmaker while participating in a protest against the military junta in the streets of Yangon, the country’s most populous city, local media reported on Sunday (31.07.2022).
As reported by Radio Free Asia and Asia Nikkei, the young independent filmmaker named Toru Kobuta, in his 20s, was arrested on July 30 in the afternoon along with two Burmese nationals.
The young man, who for months filmed in Japan testimonies of Burmese people who had fled the military regime imposed in his country, is in good health and is being questioned by the authorities at a police station in Yangon, according to the sources.
The Japanese Embassy in Burma has called for his release, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said.
In April 2021, just three months after the military coup d’état with which General Min Aung Hlain seized power in the country, police arrested a Japanese journalist covering a protest in Yangon. Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi, 46, faced a possible sentence of up to three years in prison for spreading “fake news” and supporting the civil disobedience movement but was released a few weeks later following diplomatic mediation by the Japanese government.
The press has been one of the main targets of the military junta since it took power, with more than a hundred journalists in prison at some point since the coup, and the closure and persecution of independent media. One of the most media cases was that of the American journalist Danny Fenster, who was deported to his country days after receiving a sentence of eleven years in prison.
The coup d’état of 1 February 2021 plunged Burma into a political, economic, and social crisis, with clashes between junta forces and opponents, and increased repression. According to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, 2,138 people have been killed by the authorities’ repression, while nearly 15,000 people have been arbitrarily arrested.