politics

Japan, U.N. expert trade barbs over freedom of expression in Japan

31 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© KYODO

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
Login to comment

Regarding Japan's broadcasting law, in which Article 4 theoretically provides the government with the basis to suspend broadcasting licenses if TV stations are not considered as "politically fair," Ihara said that "the act does not give rise to any pressure on the media."

I really wonder how long he had to practice saying this with a straight face?

20 ( +22 / -2 )

"information gathering activities performed by journalists are not punishable under the act."

Not yet.

Come on Japan. You're better than this. Don't sleepwalk into the authoritatian nightmare.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

a. All news in any part of the service should be presented with due accuracy and impartiality.

b. Due impartiality should be preserved on the part of persons providing the service as respects matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy.

d. Licensees should adhere to the rules on impartiality drawn up in accordance with Section 6(3) of the Act, contained in Section 3 of the ITC Programme Code.

Yes, just reading these rules is chilling... Oh, wait these are the Ofcom impartiality rules which exist in the UK and countless other countries around the world.

I suspect only Americans like UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye (who grow up watching the sort of politicised garbage you find on FOX news or MSNBC) will find impartiality rules for broadcast licensees to be a threat to freedom of expression. Most of the world does and Americans need to realise that sometimes they are the odd ones out. Of course, Abe is no saint and Japan is far from perfect but let's be fair and keep things in perspective.

-10 ( +5 / -15 )

"It is regrettable that some parts of the report are written without accurate understanding of the government's explanation and its positions," Japanese ambassador to Geneva Junichi Ihara said in his statement to the Council.

"Accurate" like the Japanese foreign ministry's offer to help Western historians reach "correct" interpretations of history. It's straight Ministry of Truth:

"Minitrue plays a role as the news media by changing history, and changing the words in articles about events current and past, so that Big Brother and his government are always seen in a good light and can never do any wrong. The content is more propaganda than actual news."

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Yes, just reading these rules is chilling... Oh, wait these are the Ofcom impartiality rules which exist in the UK and countless other countries around the world.

I suspect only Americans like UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye (who grow up watching the sort of politicised garbage you find on FOX news or MSNBC) will find impartiality rules for broadcast licensees to be a threat to freedom of expression. Most of the world does and Americans need to realise that sometimes they are the odd ones out. Of course, Abe is no saint and Japan is far from perfect but let's be fair and keep things in perspective.

Not true. Most western nations have similar laws but Japan goes that extra step closer to government control of the media. What the article does not mention is the Japanese 'press club' which in effect is a government 'news central' not unlike that in China.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Regarding Japan's broadcasting law, in which Article 4 theoretically provides the government with the basis to suspend broadcasting licenses if TV stations are not considered as "politically fair," Ihara said that "the act does not give rise to any pressure on the media."

As much as the Japanese bang-on about the 'samurai spirit', they certainly don't fight with courage, dignity or honesty to my eyes - as can be seen in the above excerpt.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Of course impartiality rules are dangerous and potentially stifling. The bottom line is, who gets to decide what is and is not "impartial"? It leaves the door open to abuse and restriction of free expression.

It's better to let the media fire away with whatever they have, and have a little faith in the general public to be able to tell the difference. There is no need for government "fairness police" to monitor each tv station and punish those who transgress.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

well when NHK has to change it shows because the government does not approve of its content BEFORE it is even broadcast, you wonder 1) how the govt has access to programs before they air and 2) why they are allowed to edit TV shows

12 ( +14 / -2 )

even worse is to get the answer "This is Japan you do not understand our culture"

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Didn't a well-respected NHK program host get fired for her sometimes critical tone of Abe and the LDP? (I can't remember her name or the title of her in-depth news interview program.)

Plus, there's this: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/17/japanese-tv-anchors-lose-their-jobs-amid-claims-of-political-pressure

17 ( +17 / -0 )

So how does this Kaye guy suggest the law should be rewritten?

Or does he just want it dropped and to let any nutjob have unlimited broadcasting rights?

I guess this guy's job is to complain about things but not offer any viable workaround.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

In his statement, Kaye argued that "the authority of the government to suspend broadcast licenses on grounds of fairness, even if the government has never taken advantage of that authority, presents a certain measure of risk for any broadcaster, one that the government would do well to remove."

I think people need to be honest about this. Yes, the potential for abuse is there (as is the case in any regulation) but it also serves a legitimate purpose. If you want to completely lift all impartiality rules for broadcasting licensees using bandwith on the public airwaves, then get ready for the Nippon Kaigi news channel to start beaming into households across the nation... 'Up next, did the so-called Nanjing Massacre really happen? Stay tuned to find out'

@letsberealistic

Most western nations have similar laws but Japan goes that extra step closer to government control of the media. What the article does not mention is the Japanese 'press club' which in effect is a government 'news central' not unlike that in China.

Yes, but how does the Kisha club system prevent the press from actually reporting? At most, it only shields the government from directly being asked embarrassing questions. It doesn't censor information. I don't like it either, but I don't think it's very different from journalists being accredited to sit in on White House press briefings, right? Unfortunately space at any press conference is limited. It should be distributed fairly but someone will have to be excluded when the limit is reached.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

I guess this guy's job is to complain about things but not offer any viable workaround.

Exactly. I say let's get rid of Abe, but let's not open up the airwaves to every nutjob with deep pockets. People need to realise that taxpayers own the public airwaves and this is why tighter controls are in place. Everyone can still launch a satellite channel or a newspaper and say pretty much whatever they want.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

If you want to completely lift all impartiality rules for broadcasting licensees using bandwith on the public airwaves, then get ready for the Nippon Kaigi news channel to start beaming into households across the nation... 'Up next, did the so-called Nanjing Massacre really happen? Stay tuned to find out'

And herein lies the problem. It's not the truth the government wants disseminated. It's the Government's own version of the truth that it wants disseminated. I'd bet my lefty that if NHK wanted to air something like 'Japan's Role in Helping Nanking' it sure as hell would air. Luckily, some organizations are still trying to actually report (from within their confines).

It all comes down fitting the governments narrative, not reporting news. Other shows that would air are:

'Fukushima, a Garden Paradise'

'Japan: a Land Free of Crime'

'Japan's Role in Freeing Manchuria from Poverty'

'Moritomo and the Modern Education Revolution'

'Why are Japanese the Happiest People?'

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@AgentX

lol. I swear I've already watched some of those shows on NHK World, or at least something very similar. I think the real problem is the level of political involvement in NHK, not the basic principle of impartiality in the broadcast law itself. No other broadcaster on the public airwaves courts the same level of controversy for obvious reasons.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

UN has to respect each nation's cultural traditions. Japan is a fine nation.

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

I think the real problem is the level of political involvement in NHK, not the basic principle of impartiality in the broadcast law itself. No other broadcaster on the public airwaves courts the same level of controversy for obvious reasons.

Totally! Agreed!

I've never understood the lack of political debate here, not only on the airwaves, but in the general public, too. Not sure if the chicken or the egg came first there.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Japan has quite many high quality films or TV productions. Japan as a nation is much more stable than many other nations. These facts should be considered by UN carefully.

-15 ( +0 / -15 )

Although commendable, I can't help but think the target of this report is a bit silly and wasteful. They are going after an easy target in Japan, when they could have been bold and gone after egregious offenders like China, Russia, etc. We expect much more from the UN

0 ( +5 / -5 )

They are going after an easy target in Japan, when they could have been bold and gone after egregious offenders like China, Russia, etc.

These UN special rapporteurs are hired to criticise pretty much every country, China included. They are usually ideologues with an axe to grind and often make outlandish and controversial findings. For example, in 2014 the special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo spent 16 days in the UK and concluded that it was the most sexist country in the world.

Special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo said there was "a more visible presence of sexist portrayals of women and girls" and a "marketisation of women's and girls' bodies" in the UK, which was more pervasive than elsewhere.

"Have I seen this level of sexist cultures in other countries? It hasn't been so in-your-face,"

I find it hard to take this seriously. Everything UN special rapporteurs say should be taken with a grain of salt.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Yes, just reading these rules is chilling... Oh, wait these are the Ofcom impartiality rules which exist in the UK and countless other countries around the world.

I believe this misses an important point though. In most other countries (not sure about the UK), while they may have some version of a political neutrality rule, they also don't leave it in the hands of the governing administration itself to unilaterally decide when a broadcaster is breaching it because there is an obvious conflict of interest there (ie the government will only use it to go after those critical of it). Instead if the government wants to enforce that rule they have to appear before an independent commission which will hear their case and make a decision based on the law.

In Japan though the rule gives the Prime Minister's cabinet a great deal of discretion to unilaterally go after those it considers hostile to its policies without any sort of independent oversight. While they've never invoked it to suspend a license, just last year the Minister of Communications (who has responsibility for this) stated in the Diet that she was willing to do so, which has an obvious potential to chill critical coverage (as it was undoubtedly designed to do).

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@rainyday

I believe this misses an important point though. In most other countries (not sure about the UK), while they may have some version of a political neutrality rule, they also don't leave it in the hands of the governing administration itself to unilaterally decide when a broadcaster is breaching it

I agree with that and it's a very good point. There should be up to an independent commission to decide whether a broadcast licence should be cancelled. But in Japan (and most other countries) a decision like this whether taken by a commission or the executive could be challenged in the courts if it was taken for improper purposes. In theory, the courts should be the most independent arbitor of all, right? But people will rightly laugh at that and say 'but come on, this is Japan'. And I think that gets to the heart of the issue; the laws on broadcasting neutrality on the public airwaves are not inherently offensive, controversial or a threat to free speech if enforced properly so there is no clear reason to scrap them, but it's the entire political system in Japan that is quite toxic and corrupt and makes any sort of regulation a potential threat to every sort of freedom. Of course, the special rapporteur couldn't say this.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Actually it IS the UN with western Social Justice Warriors at helm who are hellbent at limiting the only freedom of expression left in Japan - in form of games, manga and idoling industry.

For Example, just last year, the UN proposed the possible banning of games and manga that depict "sexual violence against women."

The Women's Institute of Contemporary Media Culture arm in Japan was not pleased and they've responded to this western overreach.

The rebuttal is titled:

Our Formal Opinion on the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women's "Protecting Women's Rights in Japan - Proposal to Ban the Sale of Manga and Video Games Depicting Sexual Violence" (February 28, 2016)

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Freedom of expression, um?

Last year, the woman artist Megumi Igarashi was fined after distributing data that would allow 3D printing of her genitals in order to raise funds for boat.

She was fined 400,000 yen, half the penalty demanded by prosecutors. This year, the High Court upheld the case against the "good-for-nothing girl" or “Rokudenashi-ko”

Of course no problem with the festival of the male organ. Plenty of free expression over there.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Of course no problem with the festival of the male organ.

There are festivals celebrating the female organ too. While the case against Megumi Igarashi may be bizarre, I think she would have also been charged if she had done the same for a kayak in the shape of male genitalia.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

All readers, back on topic please.

Already,

Innumerable self-censorship or hesitation, shrink are expanding among japanese mainstream media. 

There is atmosphere that criticism against Abe government is Taboo in Japanese society.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is why government should stay away from running the media

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Even in Japan, freedom of expression is hard. No wonder human should fight for their freedom.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

UN missed the point. Japan has unlimited freedom to express biased opinions of the past. Publicly denial of history isn't a part of freedom of expression.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Japan's broadcast law dates from 1950. It was passed when Japan was under US military control. It was heavily influenced by the 1949 US "Fairness Doctrine" that required broadcasters to give balanced coverage to controversial issues. The "Fairness Doctrine" provided for non-renewal (revocation) of broadcast licenses.

The "Fairness Doctrine" was abolished in effect under Ronald Reagan and led to the rise of right-wing "shock jocks" such as Rush Limbaugh and right-wing television media such as Fox News.

Something similar could well happen in Japan if the "fairness" provisions of the Japanese law were rendered null and void.

The issue is similar to the vetting procedure for textbooks. The vetting procedure may lead to a "white washed" narrative but it also keeps the really fire breathing right-wing view out of the school books.

I suspect that without the current broadcast law, we would see things like the overtly right-wing You Tube Sakura channel going mainstream.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites