Japanese journalist charged in Myanmar on 'fake news' allegations

·2 min read
Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese journalist, has been charged by Myanmar's junta - Kyodo/Reuters
Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese journalist, has been charged by Myanmar's junta - Kyodo/Reuters

A Japanese freelance journalist who was detained in April in Myanmar has been charged by the regime for allegedly spreading “fake news,” Japan’s embassy to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation confirmed on Tuesday.

Yuki Kitazumi, 45, is the first foreign journalist known to be charged since the February 1 coup, although about 80 local reporters are known to have been detained by the junta and 50 are still in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Mr Kitazumi, who was working for a number of major Japanese media outlets, was arrested from his home in mid-April and could face up to three years in jail if convicted under the current penal code.

The Japanese embassy in Myanmar has urged the military to release him, although it has confirmed that he remains in good health.

“Naturally, we will continue to do our utmost for the early release of the Japanese national being held,” Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s foreign minister, told journalists during a trip to the UK, according to national broadcaster, NHK.

Mr Kitazami, who had reported on anti-coup protests, was also briefly detained and beaten in February.

Myanmar’s security forces are continuing to try to crush pro-democracy protests with lethal force, torture and arrests, despite multiple appeals from the international community to refrain from violence and restore democracy.

A Kachin Independent Army fighter in northern Kachin state - Esther Htusan/AP
A Kachin Independent Army fighter in northern Kachin state - Esther Htusan/AP

At least five civilians were killed during protests on Monday. In total, more than 760 people have been killed by the junta since the military seized power, detained civilian leaders and annulled November’s democratic election results. More than 4,600 have been detained with over 3,600 still in custody.

Unrest has also been reignited in the country’s ethnic borderlands where a fragile peace process has now been undermined.

Insurgents in northern Kachin state claimed to have shot down a military helicopter gunship on Monday, during fierce clashes near the town of Momauk.

The claim from the Kachin Independence Army - which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the military in Kachin and northern Shan states – comes after military air strikes in Kachin in recent weeks.

Last week, armed clashes broke out near Myanmar’s border with Thailand between ethnic minority Karen insurgents and junta forces, which resulted in Karen guerrillas seizing an army outpost. The military has also conducted air strikes on Karen state.