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Japan press freedom under threat, U.N. special rapporteur says

By
Elizabeth Shim
Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office in late 2012, Tokyo has been pressuring Japan’s press corps to avoid criticism of the government, a U.N. special rapporteur said Tuesday. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI
Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office in late 2012, Tokyo has been pressuring Japan’s press corps to avoid criticism of the government, a U.N. special rapporteur said Tuesday. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

TOKYO, April 19 (UPI) -- Japan is coming under strong criticism for curbs on press freedom.

David Kaye, a U.N. special rapporteur on media issues, told reporters Tuesday that his weeklong interviews with members of Japan's press corps revealed journalistic independence is being challenged in the country, The Japan Times reported.

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"The theoretical possibility of government regulation and organization...combined cause media freedom to suffer; media independence to suffer," Kaye said.

Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office in late 2012, Tokyo has been driving what Kaye called "really worrying" trends in media, the Financial Times reported.

The government has often been at the forefront of increased regulations. Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi had said she could close "politically biased" broadcasters, citing a broadcasting law that can legally suspend television stations.

Kaye said such statements and the law itself could be interpreted as a threat to media freedom.

In recent years, journalists who ask tough questions had to leave their jobs, while Abe appointed an ally, Katsuto Momii, to the chair position at public broadcaster NHK.

"A significant number of journalists I met feel intense pressure from the government, abetted by management, to conform their reporting to official policy preferences," Kaye said.

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"Many claimed to have been sidelined or silenced following indirect pressure from leading politicians."

The U.N. special rapporteur said he had heard newspapers sometimes delay or cancel articles, or demote reporters if they are critical of the government.

Kaye's findings are to be presented as a full report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017.

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