politics

Japanese media self-censorship grows under Abe

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By Linda Sieg

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"Dear Leader???" Anyone else see similarities?

23 ( +30 / -7 )

This happens everywhere today, also in the West. People shouldn't believe there's some kind of real free press.

5 ( +17 / -13 )

And heads get buried deeper into the sand! This is not good for the country, nor the world.

23 ( +27 / -4 )

At least we have insightful and thought-provoking articles from JapanToday!

8 ( +15 / -7 )

It is true, this is the same everywhere in the world. But make no mistake aboiut this and have any illusions: It has been getting a lot worse in the last five years, not just a little bit. History shows that this always means preparing the people/readers for a kind of collapse and making sure they will not blame themselves and the politicians they voted for, instead know who's fault it was. Just as an example take Japan. it will always be the fault of North Korea and China... and of course, it will work this time too.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

When the Abe regime starts directly censoring the media, I'll worry. If the media elects to censor itself, I only blame the media.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

Guess we need another Snowden over here in Japan, some whistle-blowers!

19 ( +21 / -2 )

To be honest, I don't think you can really put all the blame on commercial media like Asahi. Japanese people seem to find criticism and debate to be really mendokusai and something to be avoided. They just don't want to hear it. The media is just giving the public what they want. If I'm wrong and there is a huge appetite for critical coverage then you would expect to see alternative media filling the void and becoming very popular, but this hasn't happened as far as I know.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Japan also needs it's very own Charlie Brooker media analyst/cynic. Can't see it ever happening though.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

The media is just giving the public what they want.

As the politicians (who are always related to the media, someway), everywhere. This is called demagoguery.

Guess we need another Snowden

Implying we were able to know something really important from him. I don't even know where he is, basically disappeared?

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

"Criticism of the government has dropped sharply,” said Kozo Nagata, a former NHK producer and now a professor of media studies at Musashi University."

No kidding, in the DPJ era , their govt. got taken to the cleaners and blasted for every stupid small thing...now Abe has certainly put an end to that.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Japanese media self-censorship grows under Abe

I.e. anti-Abe rants not helping the ratings.

An outspoken guest commentator will also be replaced, the sources said. Former trade ministry official Shigeaki Koga, who sparked a flap last month by criticizing Abe over a hostage crisis that ended with the killing of two Japanese captives by Islamic State militants, told Reuters he had been told he would not be asked to appear as a guest on the show after March.

Yep. Bunch of viewers complained that Koga was merely using his usual anti-Abe diatribe at the expense of the hostage crisis.

-26 ( +3 / -29 )

Alex80FEB. 25, 2015 - 07:18AM JST This happens everywhere today, also in the West. People shouldn't believe there's some kind of real free press.

While this is true as it goes with a lot of the major dailies and national dailies in the West, there is simply nothing like Mother Jones, The Nation, Harper's, the Guardian or a dozen other smaller publication and web sites in Japan providing a serious critical voice. What's so pathetic about Japan is that too many major stories are broken by the semi-sleazy weeklies precisely because they aren't kisha club members and therefore don't worry about the meaningless access granted the reporters for the Yomiuri, Asahi, Sankei, etc.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

“The media did, in recent years, play a much more positive role in making people in power squirm. In the Abe era, they have begun pulling back,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus.

In addition to the insightful quote by TU's Kingston here, with the exception of Temple, I sense that Japan's universities, academics and public education establishment have also significantly pulled back from any criticism of the government and are now much more inclined to support a jingoistic agenda and engage in denialism.

Nowadays Temple University seems to be the only university in Japan willing to take a stand, while International Christian University, Sophia University and others have swung to the right.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Worries are growing in Japan about a trend of media self-censorship as journalists and experts say news organizations are toning down criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government for fear of sparking ire and losing access to sources.

Disgraceful. But anyone who thinks Japan is a true democracy with an independent fourth estate to represent the public's best interests, by keeping high-level folks in J-Inc. honest, are just kidding themselves. And we all know the kisha club sysytem is the reason for this. But, again, rather than fight for their rights, folks there just shrug their shoulders and mumble shiyou ga nai on their way to an izakaya to get wasted.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

Does the world really NEED another fascist dictator?

Do we really need "democracy" as practiced in North Korea?

Now Abe's got the media sewn up, what's the next step? Secret police?

16 ( +19 / -3 )

How low can we go?

I wouldn't trust that kind of chart. If you notice, it is so pro-West, ignoring the real condition of free press also in the West.

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

"Many journalists took the letter as a signal they should dampen criticism or risk losing access to officials." - article

If losing access to officials happens, that sounds news worthy. Is the media so cowed they're afraid to report that such-and-such or so-and-so won't answer requests for interviews? That sounds news worthy. Or is it they don't want to lose advertising dollars, like Banking giant HSBC attempting to suppress free press in the UK?

Ben Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” But maybe a job with the media organizations of today. Katsuto Momii: “We cannot say left when the government says right.” There's a nice example.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Jeff Huffman: Deluded people like you are the reason why the western democracies are basically over, competely broken. In that chart, my country (Italy) is...green? Satisfactory situation? Such a joke. And all the people who will give me a thumb down are living in Fantasyland.

Now Abe's got the media sewn up, what's the next step? Secret police?

Everything Abe is doing is okay according to Japan's main ally, the US. If you are okay with the US politics, you shouldn't be afraid.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"I wouldn't trust that kind of chart. If you notice, it is so pro-West, ignoring the real condition of free press also in the West."

Alex, news websites of the industrialized countries in the west (USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, etc.) contain criticism, insults, and sensationalism regarding politicians that in most cases you would never find in Japanese media.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

criticism, insults, and sensationalism

I can still see criticism in Japanese media. Insults and sensationalism? This isn't what we need. We need press freedom, that is not the same as insults and sensationalism (the things that make you feel "free" in the West, while the real things happen without we can know them).

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

"......news organizations are toning down criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government for fear of sparking ire and losing access to sources"

To a different extent, the same thing has been happening in Osaka, regarding Mayor Hashimoto and his plan to disband Osaka City and merge it with Osaka Prefecture.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I don't get my Japanese news from the Japanese news.

Live here and watch the news for a week and you get the deal pretty quick: Watch tonight and we'll tell you why Japan is great! Then we'll show videos from your country with no context and tell you why your country is not great!

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Cowards. Demassifying the media. And so the legacy here continues . . . .

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Jeff Huffman: In the West there are many deluded people who believe their media are free, and this is why the western democracies are competely broken. In that chart, my country (Italy) is...green? Satisfactory situation? Such a joke.

Now Abe's got the media sewn up, what's the next step? Secret police?

Everything Abe is doing is okay according to Japan's main ally, the US. If you are okay with the US politics, you shouldn't be afraid.

-10 ( +7 / -17 )

The similarities between Japanese & Chinese state-run media are growing...

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I don't get my Japanese news from the Japanese news.

Why the heck not? All you get from foreign media is bias, doom, and gloom. Foreign media coverage of all things Japan is notoriously awful and getting worse as media budgets are cut.

Most of the overseas staff working in Japan are inexperienced reporters that other bureaus don't want.

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

I wouldn't trust that kind of chart. If you notice, it is so pro-West, ignoring the real condition of free press also in the West.

IOW you are saying because you believe in aliens and no one else does, everyone else is crazy. I will take the findings of a France-based nonprofit any day.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Japan: The New China (that pretends not to be).

6 ( +12 / -6 )

I will take the findings of a France-based nonprofit any day.

Good for you. I don't. I'll prefer to keep my own criticism, always, also towards a France-based nonprofit. Specially when it puts in green basically all the West. The Netherlands in second place? I laugh.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

Most who have lived here a while quickly realize that ALL media HEAVILY self censors & cowers to the govt etc, Its been like this for many many decades, its the NORM!

NOW its just getting worse, Japanese media don't do much of anything, they sit in the kasha club taking in all the press releases & are done! Unless by some miracle something gets out there, then we get to watch them all scramble to pretend to do their jobs! Then things quickly fade & its back tot he leisurely kasha club!

Now wonder Japan is 59th on the link joeintokyo posted!

9 ( +13 / -4 )

“The media did, in recent years, play a much more positive role in making people in power squirm. In the Abe era, they have begun pulling back,”

The same thing happens in America every time a Democrat is elected president.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

The problem can slowly grow as the secret law already in place. One remedy can be for japanese to diversify their news sources, which might mean accessing some english ones, or for foreigners to publish in japanese, but i doubt if both will ever happen.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

For people who are interested in charts, the new chart:

http://index.rsf.org/#!/index-details

At least this time Italy is lower. But I think also the US should be way lower, even though they are already low enough. Idem for Germany and France. It's fun like North Europe (most of them are small countries) get the best votes...I see there could be some stereotypes here. Japan and South Korea are following at the same pace, uh? Meh. I dunno.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

soukaFeb. 25, 2015 - 10:34AM JST The problem can slowly grow as the secret law already in place.

I agree. I'd be nervous as a journalist too if anything I published could land me in prison with no warning because it concerned a secret I didn't know was a secret.

And how do journalists confirm if something is a secret? Does the editor phone the government and ask, and if they get the answer, "We can't talk about that" then that's confirmation it is a secret?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I see many people here are missing my point. Predictable. Do you know why Italy lost so many places? Because many journalists denunced the abuses they got. I'm reading an interesting article in Italian about this. So, the question is: how many journalists in other European countries did the same? North European countries are used to appear like models for the others, so how much the culture of "saving the face", and other factors, could influence freedom speech?

The situation is very bad, globally. But many people like to think that China is always the worst, Japan is like China, the West is a kind of paradise, where North Europe is first class, and South Europe is inferior...because everyone learns this from Western media (mainly in English). You are not able to see the possible bias or also admit that it can exist, and this is really dangerous for your own criticism.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Now Abe's got the media sewn up, what's the next step? Secret police?

If you have lived here long enough you should know that they already exist. The next step is not something people here are willing to openly face.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

The next step is not something people here are willing to openly face.

Maybe the fact that Japan was never a real democracy, and idem can be said for the West.

In a real democracy people should be able to say "yes" or "not" about things like wars or stuff like TPP and TTIP, but we, the ordinary people, can't.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Hale to the supreme leader Abe!

That's freedom of speech Japan style! You are free to say anything you like as long as it is supporting the government. Any negative comments will result in getting fired or worse. What's next? A 20 meter statue of Abe outside Parliament House?

2 ( +9 / -7 )

How do you say Fascism in Japanese?

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Whatever.... the press in Japan has never impressed me anyway.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Freedom the speech must be guaranteed, but I've had enough of fabrication or disinformation as an attempt to get in other's way. Criticism is welcome, though.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If I read another person writing that japan is becoming like China or a fascist dictatorship I think I will explode. Do people actually know what a fascist dictatorship looks like? Go check out Spain, Germany, Russia and Japan in the 1930's and then get back to me if you think Japan is anything like that today.

The Japanese media has certainly toned it down over the last couple of years, but to say it is like China is fallacious to say the least. I would prefer a tougher media and I find that the Abe and his administration do get an easy ride, but comparing it to China....China has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world. When was the last time a journalist went to prison in Japan?

As far as I know we can still access any website on the internet whenever we like. We watch television without having to worry about the screen being blacked out. and contrary to popular belief we can watch movies that criticise Japan legally in this country. They might not always gain distribution at a cinema, but they are always available at video libraries and online.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Beowulf,

I think people aren't saying J-media is = C-media, more like Japan is HEADED in that direction.

The quality of reporting in Japan is VERY low & they hardly question much of anything, certainly not much to be proud of that's for sure

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"We cannot say left when the government says right."

Why?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

People complaining about media censorship in Japan is laughable. Meanwhile the vast majority of English speakers are getting their news exclusively through highly biased foreign reporting on Japan, staffed by people who don't even speak the language properly and have nothing but negative opinions about Japan.

All these oars rowing in the same direction by the foreign media and there are complaints about JAPANESE censorship?

So ironic. Need some self-awareness around here, folks. Reportage like this is the very definition of self-censorship, a total and complete refusal to see things by any perspective but one's own. If it doesn't fit on's preconceive notions, reject it.

Feel free to thumb me down into oblivion again, but it's a fact.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

Feel free to thumb me down into oblivion again, but it's a fact.

No, it's an overblown generalization if there ever was one. That, plus these gems:

highly biased foreign reporting on Japan, staffed by people who don't even speak the language properly and have nothing but negative opinions about Japan.

By that I take it you're extremely familiar with international newsrooms and reporters or you're simply bringing your own highly charged biases to the table.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Prime Minister needs to stop being upset with the media, and focus more on doing a better job in making this country better. The reason why he is so angry because the media are telling the absolute TRUTH. FACE IT Abe!!! You are exposed!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

People complaining about media censorship in Japan is laughable.

Just how many journalists are in jail here for reporting the truth? None? Yes, you're right Pandabelle.

By that I take it you're extremely familiar with international newsrooms and reporters or you're simply bringing your own highly charged biases to the table.

I had the displeasure of meeting a foreign "reporter" not so long ago. I don't know why he bothered to interview the locals because what he wrote was the complete opposite of what was said. He obviously had his mind up and must have been hoping somebody would say something that would support his bogus "story".

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

Just how many journalists are in jail here for reporting the truth? None? Yes, you're right

This is because either their editors wont print their stories or they are self-censoring what they write about. I'll choose the former over the latter.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I had the displeasure of meeting a foreign "reporter" not so long ago.

One bad experience is enough to support another poster's sweeping generalization? I thought you were better than this.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Yep. Bunch of viewers complained that Koga was merely using his usual anti-Abe diatribe at the expense of the hostage crisis."

Uhmm...did they complain through the loudspeakers on their black vans ?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

One bad experience is enough to support another poster's sweeping generalization? I thought you were better than this.

Thanks. You are right, but I have a suspicion that he was not alone, at least for the new source he worked for.

What Yubaru says works both ways. "Write the story your editor wants to print".

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@ReformedBasher

Thank you for your response.

There are good and bad in any field of journalism, but making it sound like their is an active and ongoing bias against Japan and that, as the poster stated even earlier ("Most of the overseas staff working in Japan are inexperienced reporters that other bureaus don't want") is unsubstantiated twaddle.

"Write the story your editor wants to print" has a ring to it...a bit like the piece on one Sunday evening news program I was watching the other night where the 'hot topic' of Chinese tourists' lack of 'luggage manners' on aircraft was a feature. There's an audience for these stereotype-confirming, "Thanks. I need to feel superior to someone" gems within the local population as well.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Japan and S. Korea both dropped a couple of slots in the most recent press freedom index, a result I predicted last year. (I know, I know: hardly rocket science.)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@blvtzpk

You're welcome.

Yes, it's interesting how different publications seem to have a central theme or "ideology" they seem intent on proving. I'm also (not really) surprised to see that different publications can even share stories, yet due to the resident "readership", have entirely different reactions, despite the articles being exactly the same.

In this age of vast and near instantaneous information, are we no less weak-minded by our forbears when it comes independent thought? Another thing that worries me - true genius getting drowned out. It will stand out in some fields but will get lost in others.

I need to feel superior to someone" gems within the local population as well.

No better, or worse, than anywhere else. All in all, not bad considering.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Guess we need another Snowden over here in Japan, some whistle-blowers!

Not sure how leaking government secrets would benefit the people of Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Pandabelle: totally agree with you! I'm glad, I'm not alone here. :)

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

As the national broadcaster of the people - NHK - their cowering is evident by their reluctance to tackle the hard stuff.

I was particularly disappointed last year at the personal / professional attack last year on Closeup Gendai anchor Hiroko Kuniya after she questioned LDP Suga. I felt so sorry for her being bullied and beaten in such a manner.

The pathetic apologising by NHK president Momii to ldp could not happen in any major democracy I'm familiar with.

If this is the voice of the people, I shudder to think what the voice of the govt is.

Self-Censorship is a furphy. It's Aimed Censorship - no two ways about it.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Any story about Japan may have some components of state secrets so journalists feel like in hot water for just being journalists and prefer self-control over punishment.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Alex80 Pandabelle

I totally agree with you both!

There are some good independent news investigators out there, but dependence on ANY corporate or Public news service is futile. They will follow the story line they are told to follow on the real important issues; economy, war, elections, etc.

News is supposed to show both sides and let you decide for yourself. That is rarely done anymore especially from AFP, AP, Reuters, etc. The campaign to demonize Putin because he's threatening the petro-dollar is a perfect example. 4 or 5 global magazines comparing Putin to Hitler or the antichrist, or Satan on the front cover page, all published in the same week. Only a coordinated central intelligence agency could pull that off. So yeah, which Udon or tempura restaurant is better, will dominate most of the news in the future.

Japan is no different.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

News is supposed to show both sides and let you decide for yourself.

And you think the Russian media does this? Black really is white in Russia, apparently.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Don't scoff at the comments that Japanese media is heading towards Chinese type government propaganda media.

If anybody wants to take a look at the quality of Japanese media outlet, then have a look here. The articles are so like they're out of the North Korean propaganda newspaper which shows the people in the western countries starving for food.

http://www.sankei.com/world/newslist/korea-n1.html

People in Japan read this stuff and that's where they're getting all the strange ideals.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

And you think the Russian media does this? Black really is white in Russia, apparently.

You really shouldn't put words in other peoples mouth. Never said that jack***. We like to think of ourselves in the West that we're the beacon of freedom, and we have a free press. Far from it. Russia doesn't/can't make that claim.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Readers, please keep the discussion focused on Japan, not other countries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@FizzBit That is good you didn't say that. Free press does exist in some countries and Russia ain't one. I'm just fixing your gross errors in logic.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually, I learned about Crown Prince Naruto's "correctly remember history" remarks here at JapanToday. I didn't see it on the Japanese news. Nothing on NHK.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150223p2g00m0dm021000c.html

Crown prince turns 55, calls for passing down correct history

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A very worrying trend for Japan

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just another example of the deep-seated insecurities of Abe, by far the worst Japanese PM in the post WWII era. Even faced with an opposition too weak to field enough candidates to be able to win the last Lower House election, he clearly was in fear of criticism. And in the new hard right climate, the media themselves - which I found to be relatively docile and deferential at the best of times when i lived in Japan - are now openly afraid of criticval analysis.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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