03 July 2015

Freedom of the Press Under Government Pressure In Japan

History continues to rhyme.

"The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan views with deep concern the recent statements at a meeting of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers concerning freedom of the press. In particular, we are alarmed by comments that call for putting pressure on corporations to pull advertising from media and to 'crush' newspapers in Okinawa that don't hew to party and government policy views.

At the very heart of democracy is an open and fully functioning free press to serve as a check and balance on the government and to help inform debate about the issues of day. That is why freedom of the press is protected in Japan's Constitution. While the ruling party has taken action against those lawmakers involved and noted its commitment to freedom of the press, these types of comments and actions have become an extremely disturbing pattern.

Most notable recently are the calling in of broadcasters to a ruling party meeting to question their commentary and reporting and the letter to Tokyo-based networks calling for neutral coverage and reporting guidelines for the Lower House election campaign last December. In last week's instance, it is all the more alarming, considering that the lawmakers in question grew up under Japan's post-war democratic system, which includes a free press.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, established in 1945 with a membership both from Japan and overseas, views freedom of the press and the free exchange of information as central to protecting the public from state overreach, maintaining the wheels of commerce and enhancing understanding between different cultures.

In that context, we urge the ruling party and the government to refrain from actions that can – or could appear to - affect the freedom of the press and to better educate its lawmakers and officials over the vital and Constitutionally guaranteed role that a free press provides in Japan."

James Simms
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
July 2, 2015