AP

Friends of Japanese journalist demand his release in Myanmar

Aug 2, 2022, 2:28 PM | Updated: Aug 3, 2022, 2:47 am

FILE - People march to protest against the February military takeover, in Yangon, Myanmar, on April...

FILE - People march to protest against the February military takeover, in Yangon, Myanmar, on April 11, 2021. The banner reads, "Absolutely no dictatorship." Japanese video journalist Toru Kubota has been detained by security forces in Myanmar while covering a protest against military rule in the country’s largest city, pro-democracy activists said Sunday, July 31, 2022. (AP Photo, File)

(AP Photo, File)

TOKYO (AP) — Friends of Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist detained in military-ruled Myanmar while covering a protest, called for his immediate release Wednesday and an online petition has collected more than 41,000 signatures.

The documentary filmmaker was arrested Saturday in Yangon by plainclothes security forces while taking photos of about a dozen protesters, according to his supporters and a witness who spoke with The Associated Press.

The Japanese government, which has condemned human rights violations in Myanmar, confirmed a Japanese in his 20s was detained. It says it’s working for his release.

A report by Japanese public broadcaster NHK quoted a spokesman for the military government as confirming Kubota was in custody and under investigation, while saying his release remains uncertain.

Myanmar’s army seized power in February last year by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, and has cracked down on dissent, killing and arresting thousands of people. Most of the more than 50 journalists detained in Myanmar face charges of causing fear, spreading false news or agitating against a government employee, which carry penalties of up to three years in prison.

Kubota’s films focused on giving a voice to the downtrodden, such as the plight of Rohingya refugees and the poor in Tokyo amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A graduate of the prestigious Keio University with a master’s from the University of the Arts London, Kubota, 26, also did work for Yahoo! News Japan, Vice Japan and Al Jazeera English.

“I want to be as free as possible, and that’s why I make documentary films,” he says on his Twitter profile.

In his last tweet, sent late last month from Myanmar, he says: “How insensitive and ignorant I am not to really know that person on the other side of my camera until the tears start to flow. And the tears keep coming.”

His friends said he had gone alone and was working on a documentary film about that individual. Other details were not disclosed for safety concerns.

Nikki Tsukamoto Kininmouth, who worked with Kubota on a film, said he had tried to document everyday people’s lives.

“He’s simply really a nice guy,” she told reporters at the Japan Press Club in Tokyo. “He is loved by so many people.”

Earlier this week, PEN International and the Japan PEN Club called for Kubota’s immediate and unconditional release, along with others unjustly detained.

“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,” Japan PEN President Natsuo Kirino said in a statement.

Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist detained in Myanmar, after U.S. citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, who worked for local publications, and freelancers Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan. They were eventually expelled.

Kitazumi, who was among those calling for Kubota’s release, said he was worried about his safety because he felt the situation in Myanmar had worsened. Kitazumi was set free after a month.

“He knew about the risks. But he decided to go,” Kitazumi said.

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

___

Associated Press writer Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

22 hours ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

2 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

4 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

4 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

Friends of Japanese journalist demand his release in Myanmar