Japan's top diplomat accused of discriminating against foreign journalist

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was asked about immigration policy on Friday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was asked about immigration policy on Friday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Japan's foreign minister is being accused of discrimination following a curt exchange at a recent press conference that included foreign-born reporters residing in Japan.

Japan Times reporter Magdalena Osumi had asked Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi about controls or regulations that pertained exclusively to long-term foreign residents in Japan amid COVID-19, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Tuesday.


Osumi, who is fluent in Japanese, had inquired about the "scientific basis for introducing the controls" during the press conference on Friday.

Prior to Tuesday, Japan was enforcing stricter immigration policies against long-term foreign residents. Tokyo had been banning long-term foreign residents from re-entry unless "special circumstance" prevailed, such as childbirth.

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Osumi had asked about the reason for the discriminatory policies.

When Motegi did not address the reporter's question about the science behind the restrictions, Osumi followed up again. The Japanese official then answered back in English: "What do you mean by scientific?"

Osumi then said, "You don't have to treat me like I'm an idiot," to which the foreign minister said, "I'm not treating you like an idiot. I'm absolutely not treating you like an idiot."


The reporter, who is originally from Poland, also requested the foreign minister answer in Japanese as he would with any other Japanese reporter.

Hiroki Mochizuki, an editor of a magazine affiliated with the Japan Association for Refugees, said Osumi's question may have made Motegi feel uncomfortable. In belittling Osumi's language ability, the politician may have been dodging the question, Mochizuki said.

The heated exchange at the foreign ministry comes at a time when Japan's portrayal of people of color is receiving fresh scrutiny.

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Local television network NHK recently issued an apology for portraying protesters in the United States as looters and with racist caricatures, during an animated news segment about rallies over George Floyd's death.

In 2016, 1 out of 4 foreigners in Japan surveyed had said they have been harassed for "not speaking good Japanese," according to Buzzfeed Japan.

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