Myanmar accuses Japanese journalists of “fake news” as protests against the coup plotters drag on
Yangon – The Myanmar junta charged a Japanese journalist with a “fake news” law, a report said Tuesday, as the last blow to press freedom since the military took power. Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi was arrested last month and accused of spreading fake news on Monday, World Press Freedom Day. This emerges from a report by the Japanese news agency Kyodo.
Kitazumi is one of 50 journalists currently working in Myanmar, also known as Burma, as part of theagainst the coup of February 1st. Several Burmese journalists working for overseas sales outlets have been arrested since the coup and charged with similar crimes, but Kitazumi is the first foreign journalist to be charged since the military takeover.
The country has been in turmoil since civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was overthrown. More than 750 people were killed when security forces struggled to suppress demonstrations against their rule that were almost daily.
Kyodo quoted an unnamed Japanese embassy official who said Kitazumi had no health problems despite spending several weeks in Yangon’s Insein Prison, which has a long and unsavory reputation for holding political prisoners.
Kitazumi has been detained since April 18, the second time he has been arrested since the coup. He was beaten up and briefly detained during a crackdown on demonstrators in February, but was later released.
Japan, a top donor to Myanmar for years, is pressing for its release.
“Of course we will continue to do our best for the early release of the Japanese national,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told Japanese journalists during a trip to the UK, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Protests continue as the death toll approaches 800
According to the AAPP (Assistance Association for Political Prisoners), a local surveillance group, a total of 766 civilians were killed in the military crackdown on protests.
In addition to arresting journalists, the generals tried to contain news about the crisis by shutting down independent media outlets and reducing internet speeds.
AAPP says there are currently 50 journalists in custody, 25 of whom have been prosecuted, while arrest warrants are pending for another 29.
Despite the dangers, protesters continue to take to the streets, with early morning demonstrations Tuesday in the second largest city of Mandalay as well as in the northern state of Kachin.
The military has defended its seizure of power, highlighted allegations of fraud in the November elections and condemned protesters as rioters and terrorists.